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One of 2018’s Best Mysteries by Publisher’s Weekly
One of the Best Audiobooks to Listen to in October by The Washington Post
“This entry solidifies her status as a top-notch historical mystery author.” – Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
“Richly detailed novel of life and crime in 18th century China.” –The Wall Street Journal
Following the enthralling 18th century Chinese mysteries Jade Dragon Mountain and White Mirror, comes the next Li Du adventure in City of Ink.
Li Du was prepared to travel anywhere in the world except for one place: home. But to unravel the mystery that surrounds his mentor’s execution, that’s exactly where he must go.
Plunged into the painful memories and teeming streets of Beijing, Li Du obtains a humble clerkship that offers anonymity and access to the records he needs. He is beginning to make progress when his search for answers buried in the past is interrupted by murder in the present.
The wife of a local factory owner is found dead, along with a man who appears to have been her lover, and the most likely suspect is the husband. But what Li Du’s superiors at the North Borough Office are willing to accept as a crime of passion strikes Li Du as something more calculated. As past and present intertwine, Li Du’s investigations reveal that many of Beijing’s residents — foreign and Chinese, artisan and official, scholar and soldier — have secrets they would kill to protect.
When the threats begin, Li Du must decide how much he is willing to sacrifice to discover the truth in a city bent on concealing it, a city where the stroke of a brush on paper can alter the past, change the future, prolong a life, or end one.
Hart's superb third novel set in 18th-century China (after 2016's The White Mirror) finds librarian Li Du back in Beijing after a period of exile. As the secretary to Chief Inspector Sun, he transcribes witness statements and performs other clerical duties. When two bodies are found in a tile factory office with their throats slit, Li Du accompanies his boss to the scene. The victims are Madam Hong, whose husband, Hong, owns the factory, and Pan Yongfa, an employee of the Ministry of Rites, responsible for negotiating contracts with Hong and inspecting the quality of the work being done. The proximity of the corpses to each other leads Sun to suspect that they were discovered in flagrante delicto by Hong, who murdered them in a jealous rage a motive that under Chinese law serves as an absolute defense. Hong refuses to confess, however, and Li Du, who suspects that the case is much less straightforward than it appears, investigates on his own. As always, Hart excels at making even walk-on characters fully realized and at combining a gripping whodunit plot with a vivid evocation of the period. This entry solidifies her status as a top-notch historical mystery author.