The Mao Case

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 July, 2009, 12:00am

The Mao Case
by Qiu Xiaolong
Sceptre, HK$114

Qiu Xiaolong has created an impressive series, with the hub around which everything revolves being Comrade Chief Inspector Chen - as his full title has it. Chen is two slugs artist, one splash brilliant sleuth and a hint of troubled outsider: a pleasant cocktail of Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe and Hercule Poirot. Chen enjoys poetry and is an astute observer of China's political and social upheavals. In this sixth outing, these observations focus on Shanghai's obsession with money: 'Nowadays, people look at nothing but their own feet,' muses Party Secretary Li Guohua. Ironically, Mao nostalgia is also rising and soon another bit of the Chairman's life reappears, in the shapely form of Shang Yunguan, one of Mao's dancing partners. Denounced, along with her daughter Qian, during the Cultural Revolution, Shang 'committed suicide', falling to her death from her fifth-floor apartment. Now her granddaughter is suspected of having inherited documents that could rock the Party to its foundations. The Mao Case is light on plot, heavy on character and occasionally overweight with analysis. But Qiu's talent keeps the pages turning.