Publication Order of Inspector Chen Books
|Death of a Red Heroine||(2000)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|A Loyal Character Dancer||(2002)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|When Red is Black||(2004)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|A Case of Two Cities||(2006)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Red Mandarin Dress||(2007)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|The Mao Case||(2009)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Don't Cry, Tai Lake||(2012)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|The Enigma of China||(2013)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Shanghai Redemption||(2015)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
Publication Order of Short Story Collections
|Lines Around China||(2003)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Years of Red Dust||(2010)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Disappearing Shanghai: Photographs and Poems of an Intimate Way of Life||(2012)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
Publication Order of Anthologies
|Treasury of Chinese Love Poems||(2003)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
|Evoking Tang: An Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry||(2007)||Hardcover Paperback Kindle|
Born in 1953 in Shanghai, China, Qiu Xiaolong is a prolific English language author. As well as working as an academic, he writes poetry, crime fiction, literary translations and works of literary criticism. For example, he has translated several poems from the original Chinese into English and published these in a volume entitled ‘Treasury of Chinese Love Poems’ and he has also written a sizeable series of detective novels which are often popularly called ‘The Detective Chen Novels’ (though each novel, of course, has an individual title).
Qiu moved to the United States from China in the 1980s. He originally visited the US in 1988 with the aim of research and writing a book on the modernist poet TS Eliot (who was born in the US, though he later settled in Britain). However, after the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989, it became dangerous for Qiu to return to China as he noticed that several newspapers were publishing condemnations of him and his work. Thus, he decided to settle with his family in the United States, making St Louis, Missouri his home.
Qiu and his wife Wang Lijun have a daughter named Julia Qiu. He has lectured at the University of Missouri, and it is safe to say that his works display influences from both the Chinese and the US Anglophone literary traditions. Qiu’s body of work brings together the best of these two traditions. For instance, through his translation work he has made some of the most beautiful classics of Chinese poetry available to English speaking audiences whilst through his crime fiction he brings the sights and sounds of contemporary Shanghai to the detective genre.
Who is Detective Chen?
The Detective Chen series of novels, mentioned above, follows the fortunes of the diligent Detective Chen Cao. Working alongside his subordinate, Sergeant Yu, who is older than him, Chen works in the police department in Shanghai to solve a variety of grisly murders and other crimes. Often, investigating these crimes leads Chen to be embroiled in high level political intrigue, as well as plunging him into the worlds of top models, mysterious novelists, and ordinary citizens caught up in strange events.
Two key themes run through the Detective Chen novels. The first is the Communist Party of China and how it infiltrates the lives of ordinary citizens in Shanghai. The second is the double act of Chen and Yu, each of whom stumble upon a variety of mystifying and sometimes misleading clues which they then need to work together to unpick. The first novel in the Detective Chen sequence was ‘Death of a Red Heroine’ which was published in the year 2000 and which won the 2001 Anthony Award for Best First Novel.
After that, Qiu published a new novel in the series every year or two, with titles including ‘When Red is Black’ (2004) and ‘The Mao Case’ (2009). Several of the novels in this series have been adapted into radio plays for the British radio station BBC Radio 4, including ‘Death of a Red Heroine’, ‘When Red is Black’ and ‘A Loyal Character Dancer’. In these radio plays, Detective Chen Cao was played by Jamie Zubairi and Sergeant Yu was played by Dan Li.
Now, let us look in greater depth at two of the most famous novels in the Detective Chen series: ‘Death of a Red Heroine’ and ‘A Loyal Character Dancer’. Though they are set in Shanghai, all of the novels in this series were originally written in English.
Death of a Red Heroine
As mentioned above, this award winning novel was first published in 2000 and it was an instant hit. The novel revolves around the death of a young woman, whose body is found wrapped in plastic in a canal in an obscure part of Shanghai by a couple of friends. Her name, it transpires, is Guan Hongying (and here readers need to be aware that the name ‘Hongying’ can be translated as ‘heroine’). Hongying has earned the title of ‘National Model Worker’, which was given to good workers by the Communist Party in China. So, why has she been murdered? Chen Cao and Sergeant Yu are soon on the case.
What is intriguing about this novel is the fact that Chen and Yu find the murder suspect pretty easily; but what they find harder to deduce is the suspect’s motive. They relatively quickly realize that Wu Xiaoming is their suspect: could it be relevant that his father (Wu Bing) is a high ranking cadre in the Party? And why would he murder a National Model Worker such as Guan Hongying?
Needless to say, Wu Xiaoming’s family use all of their power to obstruct the investigation, so the latter half of the novel becomes more and more about Chen and Yu’s fights against the full might of a corrupt arm of the Party. In the end, however, the motive is discovered, and Detective Chen is able to give a full report to his superiors.
A Loyal Character Dancer
After the Success of ‘Death of a Red Heroine’, Qui followed up with his second novel in the Detective Chen series, a book entitled ‘A Loyal Character Dancer’, which was published in 2002. In this novel, Yu could be described as one of Chen’s friends as well as his sidekick, and once again we see the duo working together in order to solve a grisly murder.
In this novel, it is Chen himself who finds the body of the murder victim as he is walking in a park. He notes that the victim has precisely 18 stab wounds and he decides that he and Yu will take the case on together. At the same time, however, he is charged with looking after and assisting the work of a US Marshall named Catherine Rohn. Chen and Rohn end up investigating a human smuggling ring and along the way they meet with some interesting characters, such as a man who can offer key evidence about the human smugglers, but who will only talk if his wife is with him. This being a Detective Chen novel, things are never easy, and Chen discovers that the said man’s wife has mysteriously disappeared.Book Series In Order » Authors » Qiu Xiaolong