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"The system has no place for a cop who puts justice above the interests of the Party. It's a miracle that I survived as long as I did."
For years, Chen Cao managed to balance the interests of the Communist Party and the promises made by his job. He was both a Chief Inspector of Special Investigations of the Shanghai Police Department and the deputy party secretary of the bureau. He was considered a potential rising star in the Party until, after one too many controversial cases that embarrassed powerful elements in the Party, Chen Cao found himself neutralized. Under the guise of a major promotion, a new position with a substantial title but no power, he's stripped of his job duties and isolated. But that's still not enough, as it becomes increasingly clear that someone is attempting to set him up, for public disgrace and possibly worse.
Chen Cao is technically in charge of the corruption case of a "Red Prince"---a powerful, high Party figure who embodies the ruthless ambition, greed, and corruption that is increasingly evident in the new China. This "Red Prince" has the kind of connections and power to deflect any attempts to bring him to justice. Now with no power, few allies, and with his own reputation on the line, the former Inspector Chen is facing the most dangerous investigation of his career, and his life.
Chinese exile Qiu once again movingly and convincingly portrays the plight of an honest cop in a police state, in his ninth novel featuring Insp. Chen Cao (after 2013's The Enigma of China). Chen's life and career (he's also a poet) have never been in more jeopardy. To his dismay, he has learned that he has been unexpectedly "promoted" from his position as deputy Party secretary and chief inspector in the Shanghai Police Bureau to director of the Shanghai Legal Reform Committee. In a country where the interests of the Communist Party come before those of legal reform, Chen realizes that his new job is "merely a reassuring gesture... to the public, at a time when stability maintenance' was a top political priority." His fear that he's going to be discredited is magnified after an invitation to read at a book party celebrating his translations of T.S. Eliot turns out to be a setup. By chance, he avoids being found in a compromised position, but his narrow escape only intensifies his search to identify which of his recent investigations has brought him to the attention of his country's rulers. The suspense is palpable, and Qiu gives readers a chilling vision of life under authoritarian rule.