Death of a Red Heroine is a debut novel by Qiu Xiaolong. It is also the first one in a series featuring Chief Inspector Chen Cao, head of the special case squad, Homicide Division, Shanghai Police Bureau and his assistant Detective Yu Guangming. Although first published in 2000, the action takes place in 1990, at the beginning of the great socio-economic changes initiated by Deng Xiaoping a few months after the events of Tiananmen Square.
The book opens when the body of a young woman, wrapped in a black plastic bag, is found in a remote canal. The woman was naked. She was strangled after a possible sexual assault. Although the special squad does not have to take this case, Chief Inspector Chen decides to wait until some evidence appears before turning it over to the sex homicide group. But when her picture was distributed and posted in public places, a security man from Shanghai First Department Store recognises her as Guan Hongying (Hong for the colour red, and Ying for heroine), a national model worker, a cadre and party member, of course.
The argument of this murder mystery serves well to provide a vivid portrait of China during its transition period and it captures the reader attention and submerges him into its history, culture, poetry and culinary tradition, through multiple individual stories. For my taste the book offers a superb introduction to China and it was a worthwhile read. It won’t take me long to read the next book in the series. It is no surprise that Death of a Red Heroine was the winner of the Anthony Award for Best First Crime Novel and it was short-listed for the Edgar Award for Best First Crime Novel.
This is my third Asia book on Dorte’s 2010 Global Reading Challenge.
Qiu Xiaolong was born in Shanghai, China. He is the author of the award-winning Inspector Chen series of mystery novels, Death of a Red Heroine (2000), A Loyal Character Dancer (2002), When Red Is Black (2004), A Case of Two Cities (2006), Red Mandarin Dress (2007), and The Mao Case (2009). His last book Years of Red Dust will be released on September 28, 2010. He currently lives in St. Louis with his wife and daughter (from his website).
Death of a Red Heroine has been reviewed by Maxine at Petrona, Norman at Crime Scraps, Craig at Crime Watch, Reviewing the Evidence, Un cadaver en mi blog (in Spanish). See also Mis detectives favoritos (in Spanish).
Death of a Red Heroine
First published in the United Sates of America by Soho Press in 2000
First published in Great Britain in 2006 by Hodder and Stoughton
Number of pages: 470.