I was immediately intrigued by this novel, featuring Chief Inspector Chen, a detective in China, who is also a poet. He sets out to solve the murder of a communist 'model worker', along the way quoting ancient Chinese poets and stumbling upon political obstacles.
The novel is very insightful into the politics of China and how it affects individuals, particularly the increasing contradictions between traditional communism and the emerging capitalism in the country. It is also very entertaining in places. I particularly liked the way it explored the tensions in Chen's life as he juggled his police work and poetry, with the latter constantly treading the line between politically acceptable and unacceptable, a line that seems to change quite frequently.
I was struck by this paragraph, it's talking about poetry of course, but you can sense its relevance to detection too!
'...a waft of the jasmine blossom fragrance from a blue tea cup, or a particular rhythm in an attic, with a train rumbling into the distant night, and he would have the feeling he were on the verge of producing a wonderful poem. All this could turn out, however to be a false lead and he would end up crossing out fragments of unsatisfactory lines.'
All in all, well worth a read.
Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xiaolong, published by Sceptre.
Qiu Xialong is a poet himself and has written a total of four novels about Chief Inspector Chen as well as editing anthologies of Chen's favourite T'ang dynasty poetry!