Death of a Red Heroine, by Qiu Xiaolong


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.Globus 2

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).

Qiu Xiaolong’s interview at Scene of the Crime

Read a Sample Chapter

Hodder and Stoughton

Qiu Xiaolong Official Website

Death of a Red Heroine

Qiu Xiaolong

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.

ISBN: 978-0340-89750-8

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10 thoughts on “Death of a Red Heroine, by Qiu Xiaolong

  1. >Jose Ignacio – Thanks for this fine review. I've read several good reviews of this book, and I really feel guilty that I haven't gotten to it yet. Why are there only 24 hours in a day?? 😉

  2. >Gracias por la referencia, José Ignacio. Tienes la ventaja de haber leído el libro en su idioma original (el inglés), con lo que te has ahorrado la lamentable traducción de la edición en español.Un saludo.

  3. >Gracias a ti UCEMB, tengo que reconocer que fue tu resña la que me animó más a leer este libro.Efectivamente es una pena el no disponer de buenas traducciones, uno de los motivos por los que leo en inglés siempre que puedo. El otro es el precio de los libros. Saludos

  4. >Nice review, Jose Ignacio, I am glad you liked this book. It is such fun, discovering a new author one likes, and realising there are several titles just waiting to be read….!

  5. I quite liked this book (read as part of an alphabet challenge!) mainly for its depiction of China. I thought the detective was not that great at detecting as he missed a very obvious clue. But, if he had found it, there would not have been a book I suppose.

  6. Hi again Jose Ignaicio. I keep getting old posts of yours in my RSS reader – I commented above as I thought this was a new post, then realised it wasn’t (and that I commented before!). I am not sure what is going on but this happened to Margot too when she switched to Word Press – lots of old posts kept coming up as new ones. She has managed to stop this happening on her blog, now.

    1. Sorry about that Maxine. Will check with Margot to find out how to solve it. Maybe I’m the one to blame since I have manipulated some old posts that were imported with a different font size. Anyway thanks for telling me.

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