Feb 17, 2008

Book Review: Red Mandarin Dress by Qiu Xiaolong

Red Mandarin Dress: An Inspector Chen Novel (Inspector Chen Cao) In the fifth mystery in the series by Qiu Xiaolong, Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau reluctantly puts aside his studies of classical Chinese literature to help solve the sensational Red Mandarin Dress murders.

Three young women have been found in public locations in the city, each dressed in a torn red mandarin dress. Inspector Chen and police officer Yu race against time to solve their murders before the serial killer can find another victim.

Chen and Yu visit libraries and interview expert tailors and people knowledgeable about the old style mandarin dresses. They link the dresses back to the period of the Cultural Revolution.

Using the information he gathers, Chen uses modern psychology to create a profile of the killer, at the same time as he analyses each situation with relevant quotes from Tang and Sung poetry and sayings from the sage Confucius.

I enjoyed reading about the detailed police procedures used to solve the crime in modern day Shanghai. I also found interesting the author's distaste for some aspects of the past, namely the Cultural Revolution and its lingering effects, and the "cruel" cuisine that is still practised by some cooks and demanded by patrons.


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