An elaborately plotted thriller that explores the limitations of justice.
The murder of the legendary Sgt. Zheng Haoming of the Chengdu Criminal Police reopens an 18-year-old investigation and resurrects a number of ghosts. First on the scene of Zheng’s murder is Capt. Pei Tao of the provincial Longzhou Police Department, who had an appointment with Zheng. Pei and Zheng have a history that goes back to the police academy and a crime committed long ago by “Eumenides,” a self-styled avenger, and together they had been investigating the possibility that Eumenides has resurfaced. In Greek mythology, Eumenides were the Furies, three goddesses of revenge; in their earlier appearance Eumenides executed three victims. And Eumenides is back, as several victims receive a “death notice” listing the nature of their crimes and the day of their execution. All are guilty of crimes that either were not, or could not be, punished by conventional justice, and Pei and the Chengdu police attempt to both avert the fatal punishments and unmask and apprehend Eumenides. The connections between today’s police and the original Eumenides’ crimes are dark and twisted, and Pei has a role in both Eumenides’ creation and the present pursuit. Much blood flows, and many careers destroyed, before the Furies are dealt with. This is, according to the publisher, the first of a three-part series; the end of this first part certainly invites speculation about the future of several characters, and the dense plotting and exuberant bloodletting would support several novels. But though individual histories and physical details clearly distinguish the characters, the dialogue does not reinforce their variety. The story, set in present-day China, does not offer much local flavor, and the generally homogeneous speech patterns contribute to a general flatness.
A complex exploration of crime and punishment that’s not totally engaging.