Chief Inspector Chen, the poetic policeman, takes a backseat to a junior colleague in probing the murder of an unpopular industrialist.
Chen Cao, veteran of the Shanghai Police Bureau and renowned writer, is unexpectedly called away from a conference outlining "new responsibilities for Communist Party officials" to visit Wuxi Cadre Recreation Center, noted for its lush natural surroundings. In order to avoid being bothered by his protégé Sergeant Huang Kang and other detectives seeking help, he keeps his respite at the coveted getaway a secret. Ironically, Wuxi has devolved into a shabby resort, its legendary Tai Lake now brackish with pollution, the result of industrial development in the region. Chen finds a kindred intellectual soul in Shanshan, a young woman who proves to also be a font of information about local business in general and the chief polluter in particular: Liu Deming, representative of the People's Congress of Zhejiang Province and owner of The Wuxi Number One Chemical Company. After Liu is found murdered, the investigative tables are turned when Huang catches the case, forcing Chen to play Watson to his unsteady Holmes. Huang's slowness is a constant test of Chen's patience, but he develops an effective strategy of convincing Huang that the suggestions he plants are Huang's own. A wronged wife and unhappy employees top the list of suspects, with Shanshan a ubiquitous presence.
Chen's seventh (The Mao Case, 2009, etc.) is again peppered with poetry and told with clarity and elegance. Its portrait of modern China is as intriguing as its slow-rolling whodunit.