A true-crime murder mystery from 2011 set in a remote Chinese city, with an outsized impact on governance of the vast nation.
Pin Ho and Wenguang Huang (The Little Red Guard, 2012) use the case study method, shifting from the specific to the general throughout the book. The murder victim was Neil Heywood, a British businessman with ties to Chinese officials who held the power to approve business deals with foreign investors. While on a business trip, Heywood turned up dead in his hotel room in Chongqing. The authors reveal a list of likely suspects about halfway through the text. First, they introduce Wang Lijun, a powerful regional Communist Party official who served as the police chief of Chongqing. As a law enforcement chieftain, Wang Lijun carried a reputation for employing brutality with suspected criminals. Next, the authors introduce Bo Xilai, the most powerful regional official and ostensibly Wang Lijun's superior. Like many powerful party members who had risen to authority, Bo Xilai was a "princeling," which meant he was the spawn of previous generations of government officials considered stalwarts. The book's third section focuses on Bo Xilai's powerful wife, Gu Kailai, considered huo shui, loosely translated as "poisonous water." The authors explain how Gu Kailai continues a tradition of beautiful women who destroy the careers of powerful men. In the final section of the narrative, they link the murder case to the rise last year of Xi Jinping as the dominant Communist leader in the country.
Because the names, titles and governmental forms will be unfamiliar to most Western readers, the narrative can feel like tough going at times, but the authors weave a fascinating, dark narrative web.