Soho, Jul 2004, 25.00, 320 pp.
Party Secretary Li cannot find Chief Inspector Chen Cao, so he assigns the investigation of the murder of author Yin Lige to detective Yu Guangming. Though Yu needs to find an apartment in overcrowded Shanghai, he cannot “politically” refuse a case given to him by the Party Secretary. He quickly learns that Yin wrote a banned book about falling in love during the Cultural Revolution.
Meanwhile the Shanghai New World Group CEO Yu provides Chen with an offer he cannot refuse. He will pay Chen an exorbitant fee to do him a favor by translating a major business proposal into English.
Yu pursues threads that lead nowhere while Chen earns money translating the business documents. Still Chen advises his junior partner on how to proceed. Soon Yu finds out that Yin shared a romance during the Cultural Revolution with Professor Yang Bing. Could someone have silenced the author because of something that occurred when Yin and Yang were together at a time when the Red Guard reeducated or killed the Black (anti worker)?
The third Chen tale is an exciting Chinese police procedural, but somewhat different than that of the two previous novels (see DEATH OF A RED HEROINE and A LOYAL CHARACTER DANCER) as Yu leads much of the investigation. The deep look at modern day Shanghai and brilliantly incorporating Chinese poetry into the love story of Yin and Yang enhance the story line. Though the ending seems soft, perhaps because the rest of WHEN RED IS BLACK is so powerful, Qiu Xialong provides a deep look at how historical events impact the present inside a terrific murder mystery.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner