Chief Inspector Chen Cao never had a choice about his career. A poet by training, he was assigned to the Shanghai Police Department after college. To his own surprise, he became an excellent detective, and now he's in line to take over the top political position in the department. Which is why the Party has chosen him for the investigation into the death of Zhou Keng.
Zhou Keng was running the Shanghai Housing Development Committee when a number of his corrupt practices were exposed. Removed from his position and placed into detention, he apparently hanged himself while under guard.
The Party is anxious to have Zhou's death declared a suicide, but the sequence of events doesn't quite add up. Now Chen will have to decide what to do - follow the party line, or seek the justice his position requires and risk angering powerful people...
The dilemmas of being an ethical cop in a police state have rarely been as neatly delineated as in Qiu's superb eighth novel featuring Chief Insp. Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau (after 2012's Don't Cry, Tai Lake). Chen a poetry lover and a member of the Shanghai Communist Party Committee helps look into the apparent suicide of Zhou Keng, the director of the city's housing development committee, at the hotel where he was under extralegal detention. Zhou ostensibly hanged himself out of shame after a crowdsourced Internet investigation revealed his corruption, but Chen doubts the official story, especially after another suspicious death. All too aware of his country's contradictions, Chen nods in agreement with a scholar who, in a "controversial yet permissible lecture," refers to "things that are called socialist or Communist in our Party's newspapers but are in practice actually capitalistic, primitive or crony capitalistic, and utterly materialistic." This installment approaches the levels of Eliot Pattison and James Church's similarly themed novels, and the series has gotten stronger with age.