PAPER BUTTERFLY by Diane Wei Liang


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Beijing’s only female private eye follows the trail of a missing pop singer through the hutongs of downscale Dashanzi.

Calling herself an “information consultant” keeps Mei Wang (The Eye of Jade, 2008) on the right side of China’s proscription against private detectives. But Peng Datong, CEO of Guanghua Record Company, knows that Mei is the right person to consult when his star performer Kaili disappears after a show at Capital Gymnasium. The perfume, cigarettes and pill bottles on Kaili’s dressing table suggest a vain, self-involved diva, but the letters Mei finds from a distant lover—along with a delicate paper butterfly—hint at a more sensitive soul. As Spring Festival approaches and migrant workers flock from Beijing back to the provinces, Mei follows Kaili’s trail to Dashanzi, where migrants live in abandoned factories. In nearby Tofu Mill Hutong, in the shadow of Drum Tower, overworked police detective Zhao helps her cope with increasing pressure to abandon her mission. Interleaved with Mei’s search is the story of young Lin’s struggle to find his way back to Beijing after his release from East Wind Lao Gai Camp in distant Gansu, where he spent eight years being purged of anti-revolutionary speech. As she struggles with her guilt at failing to support her fellow students at Tiananmen Square, Mei becomes convinced that justice will come only to those willing to fight for it.

Fusing a strong sense of place with concern for issues that span the globe, Liang makes Mei Wang’s Beijing at once exotic and familiar.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4165-4957-4
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2009


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