The Ghost Marriage
by Peter May
Peter May is the only Western writer to have been admitted into the Chinese Crime Writers’ Association. The reason is his six-part “China Thrillers” series, which starred Li Yan, a Beijing police investigator, and American forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell. Eight years after their supposed finale, Chinese Whispers, May has reunited his partners in crime-solving. There are two caveats: The Ghost Marriage is an e-book novella whose 41 pages make it feel like a short story; and Li now heads Beijing’s serious crime squad, whereas Campbell is a lecturer and mother to the couple’s young son, Li Jon. May, however, quickly destroys their peace: “Sweet though it was, the perfume of the incense could not disguise the odour of putrefying flesh.” There are two bodies, one of which is identified as 17-year-old Jiang Meilin, but the tightly plotted mystery has only just begun. Li skips from Meilin’s truculent boyfriend, Lao Rong, to departmental politics to the ancient rite of the ghost wedding: Meilin was the cadaver bride. As always with May, it is well done, even if there is more tell than show. Still, I was left wanting more, and not in an altogether positive way.