A Chinese police inspector’s probe of a corrupt local government official takes him from Singapore to Los Angeles.
Responding to an anonymous tip, Fujian detective sergeant Lou Xiangdong goes to a seedy club called “Inebriating Money and Intoxicating Gold,” where he finds a coworker, Detective Hua Ting, dead in a prostitute’s arms. Then the story shifts to Hua’s boss, Inspector Chen Cao (When Red Is Black, 2004, etc.), a detective with a side career as a poet and critic who often thinks of bits of verse during everyday encounters. The Communist regime is undertaking a far-reaching anti-corruption campaign, and Chen is assigned the case of Xing Xing, who, fleeing to America with his family after enriching himself, now seeks political asylum, claiming he’s been framed. Chen also learns of the suspicious death of Hua, who’d been working government corruption, and probably investigating Xing as well. Chen’s probe proceeds slowly. He gets valuable information off the record, but more often meets suspicion and obfuscation. Then abruptly, he’s appointed head of the Chinese Writers’ Delegation for an imminent convention in Los Angeles. Though Chen thinks this may be the end of his investigation, it’s just the beginning. Trouble follows, along with consequential meetings with both an old flame and Xing himself.
Chen’s literary sensibility and Xiaolong’s incisive portrait of modern China, mixed with traditional gumshoe exploits, make for heady entertainment.