A Case of Two Cities

by Xiaolong Qiu

Hardcover, 2006

Status

Available

Publication

New York : St. Martin's Minotaur, 2006.

Description

"Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau is increasingly seen as a man on the rise - he is a poet with a popular new collection, a Party cadre recently appointed to the city congress, and a respected police inspector. But appearances can't always be trusted." "When a major new anti-corruption campaign is announced at the highest levels, Inspector Chen is summoned by an official of the Party to take the lead in a high-profile case, one in which the principal figure, Xing Xing, and his family have long since fled to the United States and beyond the reach of the Chinese government. But Xing left behind his organization, and Chen is charged with uncovering his connections and partners, and is authorized to take whatever means he has to to end the corruption ring. The assignment is potentially dangerous - a detective working on the case in Fujian was found dead in embarrassing and suspicious circumstances - and one that could have disastrous consequences for Chen, his friends, and his family." "In a twisting case that takes him from Shanghai all the way to the U.S., reuniting him with his colleague and counterpart from the U.S. Marshall's Service, Inspector Catherine Rhon, Chen finds himself at odds with hidden, powerful, and vicious enemies."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member pmarshall
Chen is asked to investigate a high profile anti-corruption case, but is he set up to fail? The principal person has left China and is asking for political immunity in the U.S. Following a murder Chen is pulled from the case and sent to the U.S. as head of a delegation of Chinese writers. He continues the investigation from the U.S. and while at odds with the party brings some conclusion to the case. As always the author provides insight into contemporary China.… (more)
LibraryThing member mojacobs
For me this fourth book in the Inspector Chen Cao series was less impressive than the previous ones. While information about daily life and the politics of modern-day China were one of the charms of these book, in this latest the politics feature a bit too prominently, the author keeps hitting the same nail again and again and again, and the mystery side of the book is very meagre indeed. The poems scattered through the book stay a nice gimmick, and I had no trouble finishing the book, but all in all: a bit disappointing. I will keep recommending the first book in the series, though.”… (more)
LibraryThing member riverwillow
Another fascinating book in the Inspector Chen series which really give an insight into the preoccupations and concerns of 1990s China. In this book Chen ends up in the USA and is united, albeit briefly, with Catherine Rohn. Its a good detective novel too.
LibraryThing member Springsun
This is a wonderful mystery, one of a series about a Chinese police inspector, Inspector Chen, in Shanghai, China. These books can be read in any order, and still enjoyed. The storyline is intriguing, the characters are real, and life in modern China is vividly described. I especially like the Chinese poetry quoted. This story is worth reading, and rereading :)… (more)
LibraryThing member claude_lambert
Qiu Xiaolong lives in the US with a Chinese soul. His hero, inspector Chen, lives in China and deals with corruption and the problems of rapid industrialization. Many aspects make the author precious. Inspector Chen is a poet, and many events remind him of ancient poems, when he does not write one himself. My father was like that: he was a professor of economics but he could quote a poem on every occasion; I clearly remember him quoting Baudelaire to our butcher. My father used to say that poetry had helped him survive the savagery of world war II.
Inspector Chen is also gripped by the rules of ancient cultures.
Because of Victorian times, Europeans are not supposed to ask for something directly (they do not risk/or impose on somebody to answer "no"). So they never ask for a cup of coffee, they say "Your coffee is excellent" or "Is there any coffee left", and the hostess understands that the visitor wants more coffee. China has different rules, but it is as complicated, and as a result, inspector Chen is often told what to do in a very symbolic and obscure language (I think this is linked to a principle of deniability). It amuses me. I loved A case of two cities.
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LibraryThing member fphoppe
It's pretty good. I like the occasionally stilted English which, while correct, reflects the sensibility of another language. Much like as a child of German parents, I might say, "I to the store go." Not exactly incorrect English, but not the way a native speaker would say it.
LibraryThing member bsquaredinoz
A CASE OF TWO CITIES opens with seemingly unrelated incidents: the death in somewhat scandalous circumstances of a long serving policeman and Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau being put in charge of an investigation into high-level corruption. Chen’s tactics are, of necessity, circuitous but he and the people he chooses to seek help from prove to be in danger. Even when he is appointed at the last minute to head a delegation of Chinese writers on a tour to the USA he is not beyond the reach of those with empires to protect.

I have not read the previous three novels featuring this character and there were a couple of times when it felt like I was missing out on some crucial information, but for the most part it was possible to read this book as a standalone novel. For someone who reads crime fiction as much for they way it offers me a window into other places and cultures as for the mysteries A CASE OF TWO CITIES has a lot to offer. Of most interest for me was the small details of life in modern China where a kind of state sponsored capitalism has become the dominant economic force. As Qiu Xiaolong was born in China before moving to the US as an adult I have to assume that this depiction is as authentic as it seemed when reading it and I found this aspect of the book genuinely absorbing. When the book’s action moves to America it is equally interesting seeing a more familiar setting through the eyes of people who are not used to it.

I also enjoyed meeting Chen and seeing him in action. He faces some of the same challenges as fictional police everywhere but having to combine his policing duties with a role as a leading Party cadre adds a layer of complexity and the fact this is topped off with being a recognised poet makes him unique amongst fictional sleuths. His working and personal lives both require a very delicate balancing act between all of these priorities and and this can add both danger and sadness given that he is not always free to do what his heart might want. There are a lot of minor characters in the book and I did find this a bit overwhelming for keeping the story straight in my head plus it meant that none of the other characters was really fleshed out in any depth. His trusted offsider and his wife are probably the only two I’ll be able to remember for any length of time.

Narratively I did find myself getting lost a little at times. Apologies to all the poets out there but the liberal inclusion of poetry and a kind of long-form homage to T.S.Eliot detracted rather than added to the book for me. I’ve never really liked this kind of thing (I do rather like poetry, I just prefer it to be in a separate universe to prose) and here I found it particularly annoying as I was having trouble enough keeping track of all the unfamiliar names and places. But it was probably the style of investigation that made the story harder than normal to follow. I don’t know if was because this case involved such a politically sensitive issue or if this is how Chen’s cases always play out but nothing every really moves in a straight forward direction: every tiny bit of progression has to come via an oblique angle that, at times, isn’t even recognisable as investigative work.

Overall though I really enjoyed A CASE OF TWO CITIES, even if I might have missed a few nuances of the plot and can heartily recommend it to those who like to travel virtually via their crime fiction. The setting, engaging protagonist and understated suspense all make for a very satisfying reading experience.
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LibraryThing member magentaflake
Inspector Chen of Shanghai asked to lead an investigation into corruption throughout the police force and the civil service. A good read.
LibraryThing member cbl_tn
Shanghai's Inspector Chen Cao is assigned to investigate a high-profile corruption case involving a businessman who is seeking asylum in the United States. When a potential informant dies, Chen begins to suspect that his investigation may be for show, and that top officials may not want him to succeed. Might Chen's sudden trip to the U.S. be a diversion or is it the key to solving the case?

Politics is always central to the Inspector Chen novels. This one leans more toward espionage than to crime fiction. It's not particularly light reading, either. The complex plot and ambiguous dialogue require the reader's careful attention. I made the mistake of reading this one when I had a lot of distractions. Perhaps that's why I didn't enjoy it as well as the other books I've read in the series. When I'm ready to read the next one, I'll have to make sure I pick a time with fewer distractions.
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Barcode

5436
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