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Grace D. Li Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Portrait of a Thief (2022)Description / Buy at Amazon

Grace D. Li

That group of young college students hanging out on break, the ones simultaneously laughing and drinking their coffee and texting; they could be plotting. Plotting a heist to retrieve property from those who stole from their ancestors; relics and items they believe belongs with their people. They aren’t the criminals. They are the heroes, hoping to be well-paid heroes.

In the annuls of literature, the mystery genre is relatively new- just a dozen decades old. We had suspenseful stories, Poe was certainly the master, but the detective crime stories we all read and love, they had to wait until we had an organized policing system with real detectives and real criminals to investigate, and real crime recorded.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the originals, publishing the first of his famous stories of Sherlock Holmes in 1887. (A Study in Scarlett) Now we have droves of mystery novels, podcasts, TV shows, and movies, all trying to feed the voracious appetite of the crime reader.

For an author to be able to stand out in the hoard of new books being published every year, she must be exceptional and should count themselves incredibly fortunate. Grace D. Li has seemingly struck literary gold with her first novel “Portrait of a Thief”. A year before her debut novel was to be published it was optioned for TV by Netflix and Ms. Li has signed on as an executive producer.

Drawing on a long history of ancient art and artifacts being looted around the world and taken to lands far from their creation, the story is as real and pertinent today as it was hundreds of years ago. Art and objets have been plundered with military action and purchased by unscrupulous wealthy men, kept in private collections and public museums. It’s only in the past few decades, particularly after WWII and the ruthless, rapacious plundering of Jewish-owned artifacts by Nazi Germany, has the notion finally caught hold that those act are decidedly wrong and should be corrected.

Ms. Li’s book is about Chinese-American college students who are approached by wealthy Chinese nationals to do a bit of thievery. A shadowy Chinese corporation reaches out to Will Chen, a Harvard senior. He’s a perfect student, the perfect eldest son of parents who believe in the perfect American dream. The corporation offers him an illegal and impossible job. Take back five priceless Chinese sculptures that were stolen from Beijing centuries ago.

Will build his crew skillfully. This job is dangerous and seemingly impossible and he needs the best. He approaches four other Chinese-American young people, each with specialized skills, to help him and none turn him down. He has the lock pick, the get away driver, an IT hacker, and conman. Each has their own complicated history and feelings about their Chinese nationality and family history.

With their eyes on the prize- fifty million dollars- they work together to infiltrate museums and remove the stolen sculptures.

This incredible story is based on real events. Chinese art was looted across the country for hundreds of years, making its way across Europe and to the Americas. Considered the spoils of war, a prize to the conquerers, it has been accepted as trophies to the winners. Until now. Their story is one of un-ethical gains and the complicated desire to share the beauty of the art while acknowledging they were obtained from unwilling owners.

In recent decades, these prized artifacts have been vanishing from Western museums. Unknown parties have been taking matters into their own hands and have been removing Chinese art from museums, presumably returning them to China. No one really knows.

Ms. Li has woven an incredible story, exciting with elements of great heist movies such as the Ocean’s series, Fast and Furious, and a bit of Bond thrown in. Break-ins, racing get-aways, and high-tech electronics complete the excitement of the deeds. Ms. Li says “it’s less a story about theft than it is about reclamation, of both looted art and one’s own heritage.”

Interwoven is the complicated feelings and history of a group of people who don’t wholly belong to either world they inhabit. American nor Chinese, these people are never totally comfortable with who they are. Sharing and blending two cultures is sometimes a struggle and always emotionally complicated.

Ms. Li grew up in Houston, Texas and graduated from Duke University where she majored in biology and creative writing. She taught high school in New York City and is now a medical student at Stanford University.

Ms. Li is certainly a high achiever. goodreads shares an author’s reading history and according to them in 2021, Ms. Li read 103 books, with a total of 34,347 pages. All while negotiating a Netflix deal. All while going to medical school. She is an impressive young woman in whom we expect to see much more exciting writing.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Grace D. Li

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