Chief Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police Department is often assigned cases considered politically "sensitive" and now the Minister of Public Security insists that Chen personally take on a 'special assignment.' Leery of international embarrassment, the party is concerned about rumors related to Chairman Mao. Jiao, the granddaughter of an actress who had a 'special relationship' to Mao has moved into a luxury apartment and become involved with a new social set centered around the remnants of pre-Communist Shanghai society. All without any visible means of support.
Worried that Jiao has inherited some sort of artifact that could prove damaging to Mao’s reputation, Chen has been given a few short days to infiltrate her social circle, determine if the feared material exists and, if it does, retrieve it quietly. And if he fails, the consequences will be unpleasant for all concerned.
Reviled or revered, the specter of Mao still looms large over contemporary China, as shown in Qiu's cerebral sixth mystery to feature Chief Insp. Chen Cao (after 2007's Red Mandarin Dress). Just how charged that legacy remains becomes clear to the unorthodox but uncompromising Shanghai policeman as soon as he receives a top secret new assignment. Beijing wants Chen to find out-fast-the source of beautiful young painter Jiao's sudden wealth and whether it might be linked to any potentially embarrassing "Mao material" inherited from her ill-fated grandmother, a movie queen and onetime favorite of the late chairman. When Chen goes undercover to infiltrate Jiao's fashionable social circle, he discovers a group nostalgic for an idealized pre-Communist past-as well as deadly danger. Qiu's deftly paced suspense keeps the reader flipping pages until the over-the-top climax, but what lingers is his compelling portrait of China past and present, the eternal phoenix rising from the ashes. (Mar.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.