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Now a BBC Radio 4 Drama Series.
Tucked away from the building sites of modern Shanghai are the beautiful mansions once owned by the smartest families in 1930s China. They have since been bought by rich businessmen and high-ranking members of the Communist Party. All except one.
The owner is an old painter who holds a glittering party each night: swing jazz plays for his former neighbours, who dance, remember old times and forget for an evening the terrors that followed. But questions are being asked. How can he afford such a lifestyle? His paintings? Blackmail? A triad connection? Prostitution?
Inspector Chen is asked to investigate discreetly what is going on behind the elegant façade. But, before he can get close to anyone, one of the girls is found murdered in the garden and another is terrified she will be next.
Chen's quest for answers will take Chen to a strange businessman, triads, Chairman Mao himself and a terrible secret the Party will go to any length to conceal.
Reviled or revered, the specter of Mao still looms large over contemporary China, as shown in Qiu s cerebral sixth mystery to feature Chief Insp. Chen Cao (after 2007 s Red Mandarin Dress). Just how charged that legacy remains becomes clear to the unorthodox but uncompromising Shanghai policeman as soon as he receives a top secret new assignment. Beijing wants Chen to find out fast the source of beautiful young painter Jiao s sudden wealth and whether it might be linked to any potentially embarrassing Mao material inherited from her ill-fated grandmother, a movie queen and onetime favorite of the late chairman. When Chen goes undercover to infiltrate Jiao s fashionable social circle, he discovers a group nostalgic for an idealized pre-Communist past as well as deadly danger. Qiu s deftly paced suspense keeps the reader flipping pages until the over-the-top climax, but what lingers is his compelling portrait of China past and present, the eternal phoenix rising from the ashes.