The True Story of Lu Gang and Mass Murder in America's Heartland
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 A pedestrian retelling of a true crime case involving mass murder at the University of Iowa. A science-policy reporter for the Los Angeles Times and the child of Chinese immigrants, Chen (Cheating Death, not reviewed) was intrigued by the November 1, 1991, killings. Several of the victims and their killer, Lu Gang, were physicists: Lu and his principal target were from China. Unfortunately, Chen's attempt to probe potentially interesting subjects yields little insight. Moreover, his narrative, though readable, is compromised by melodramatic tendencies and a dubious effort to present Lu's inner thoughts. The story is cast as one of rivalry. Lu was haughty, socially awkward, and a poor English speaker. Shan Linhua, wiith whom he briefly shared an apartment, was humble, athletic, sociable, and fluent in English. Both survived harsh competition to get government sponsorship for graduate school in the US. In Iowa City, Lu's work proceeded apace, but he regularly struck out with women, and his forays into the sex industry embarrassed his Chinese friends. Lu's sense of grievance grew as he learned he could not transfer into business school and lost financial aid. The hardworking Shan began to eclipse the more aloof Lu within the physics department, getting his Ph.D. before Lu and with a higher average. Lu was devastated when asked to redefend his thesis and infuriated when Shan's dissertation was nominated for a university award. He bought guns, watched violent movies, and plotted revenge. Having sent money and a self-pitying letter back home, Lu proceeded to an informal physics department seminar and then to the Office of Academic Affairs, killing five people, including Shan, and then turning a gun on himself. Only very briefly, in an epilogue, does Chen raise the question of how universities might do more to prevent such episodes. Less interesting than the headlines promised. (16 pages of photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 1-55972-241-X
Page count: 206pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1994