Inspector Chen is excluded from a poetry case as he awaits possible disciplinary action, leaving him to reflect on his career . . . but does his past hold a clue to the poetry case?
After a number of grueling cases Chief Inspector Chen is facing mounting pressure from his superiors, many of whom are concerned with where his loyalties lie. What's more, he is excluded from an investigation into an incendiary poem posted on an online forum.
Wracked with self-doubt and facing an anxious wait to discover the fate of his career, Chen is left to reflect on the events that have led to where he is now - from his amateur investigations as a child during the Cultural Revolution, to his very first case on the Shanghai Police Force.
Has fighting for the Chinese people and the morals he believes in put him in conflict with the Party? Why is he being kept away from the new case? As well as his career, is his life now also at risk?
Qiu deepens his Dalgliesh-like series lead in his superior 11th novel featuring Shanghai policeman and poet Chen Cao (after 2020's Hold Your Breath, China). Chen's latest investigation embarrassed the Beijing Communist Party leadership, and he's fallen out of favor. Despite suspecting that he'll soon lose his chief inspector position, Chen's curious about a new case involving an anti-party poem posted on the country's most popular social media platform, which reminds him of a previous inquiry. Flashbacks detail Chen's first case, which centers on an old gourmet's murder and involves "a piece of blood-speckled gauze, and a gray lizard with a strange name he failed to recollect." That intriguing plotline is enhanced by an account of Chen's painful childhood as the son of an academic deemed hostile to Mao's regime and the events that led to Chen's joining the Shanghai PD. While series fans will be delighted at the background Qiu provides, this is an accessible starting point for newcomers interested in a dogged, honest cop who must battle his own government to do his job.