As some of you already know from earlier posts, I’m a total fan of Qiu Xiaolong’s Inspecter Chen series. I just finished his latest one, The Mao Case yesterday after finally having snagged it out of the local library.
I stumbled upon this wonderful set of murder mysteries in the same library when the cover for Red Mandarin Dress (the book just before this one, I believe) caught my eye. I read the blurb, took it home and hot immediately hooked. I’ve since read all of them except for When Red Is Black of which I own a copy and am keeping it on reserve so that I will not have finished all of them yet. A strange habit of mine with books I love. I’m doing the same with Howard Fast’s famous Masao Masuto detective series.
One of the things I love most about Qiu’s series are the supporting characters, his partner Detective Yu and Yu’s wife, Peiqin who helps them on their cases at times. What I love about these two characters is the relationship they have with each other. Being a romance author, I would appreciate this part. We learn in an earlier story that Yu and Peiqin were “Educated Youths” during the ’70s when middle class high school students in China were sent to the countryside to learn to work the land from the peasans. Yu and Peiqin’s parents had arranged for the two of them to look after each other. They were out in the countryside together for ten years during which they fell in love and then married when they returned to the city. Their relationship is very sweet and they have the kind of partnership I believe most people would want in life.
As usual, this latest case of Inspector Chen’s has him investigating a politically sensitive issue concerning the past life of Chairman Mao who, it’s revealed, pulled some real King Henry the VIII moves to get rid of one woman when he wanted the next one. As usual, there are twists and turns and a surprise ending, in which a bad thing happens that weighs heavily on Inspector Chen’s conscience. (No spoilers, I promise.)
This is where my being an erotic romance author colors how I see other books, I suppose. While I totally recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good murder mystery with very likeable characters, it occurred to me that poor Chief Inspector Chen is really deprived. Here he is, a handsome, virile man in his mid-thirties and in all the time that’s passed during this series, the poor man has only had sex once! The scene was erotic and beautifully written, but really, I just feel so badly for the man. He’s hard working, honorable and devoted. Women are falling for him all over the place and he manages to resist temptation right and left. Instead, he has to smoke one cigarette after the next and sublimate with food. (Each book has numerous scenes of vividly drawn banquets and meals, which make you want to eat your way through Shanghai and then onto the rest of China.) You know if I were writing this, he would have had several more encounters at least and end up with someone.
It may sound like a criticism of the book. It’s not at all. It’s just a thought that occurred to me after following this series and getting to know and like the character. Well, hopefully, Qiu Xiaolong will write more of these and at some point, Chan Cao will have some romance.