Monday, September 05, 2011

Shanghai Noon

I came across the character Chief Inspector Chen created by the author Qiu Xiaolong in either the Business Standard or the Times of India. (don't remember which one). The paper described the book as part of a latest trend gripping readers across the world; getitng to know the city through a detective novel and exploring the spots described later on.

I was a week away from my China trip; and then decided "Hey, this is so cool. I will read this book; memorize the names; explore the places and impress the localites".

I remember going to PVR Mulund (to watch either Transformers/KF Panda 2+X-Men) and hopped into the adjacent Crossword. As is my usual experience with Crossword, the book was listed in the database, but no copies were available. I dropped the idea of buying the book from a physical store, then and there like a hot potato and turned to the new darling - Flipkart!

Sure enough, I got the book delivered; admired the title, and thought - right, "Ni Hao Shanghai"! I even packed it on top of my travel bag!

I think you must have got the drift of the story now - I ended up enjoying so much in China that I hardly found time to read. All the books except The Enchantress of Florence came back unread :)

The irritating and time wasting Mumbai traffic then came to my rescue. Long, 2 hour (one way) bus journeys became the ideal setting for the slow, bureaucratic, deferential and nice detective story to unfold. If you are looking for a super mystery like Sherlock this is not your book.

Death of a Red Heroine realistically captures the difficulty of working within China's red-tape; the influence of politics even in the lives of meritorious candidates and the food eaten on the streets! It moves slowly, and somewhere in the middle of the book you know who the culprits are, but it still keeps you engrossed.

That's why I like this book.