Chen Cao has been removed from his chief inspector role, but that doesn’t stop him investigating a ‘private kitchen’ murder that has similarities to a Judge Dee story.
No longer a chief inspector, Chen Cao finds himself as director of the Shanghai Judicial System Reform Office. To outsiders it’s a promotion, but Chen knows he’s being removed from the spotlight as he’s immediately placed on involuntary ‘convalescence leave’ to stop him interfering with any cases. However, with various high-profile crimes making headlines and fears escalating over vigilante reprisals, Chen’s superiors know he must at least appear active.
One case revolves around Min Lihau, a mingyuan, who runs a ‘private kitchen’ for powerful figures in Shanghai. Min’s accused of murdering her assistant, yet Chen is struck by its similarities to a historic case involving the famous Judge Dee. When an acquaintance of his is murdered in connection with Min, Chen knows he can’t stand idly by . . . but he must act in secret, under the cover of writing a Judge Dee novel.
Qiu's stellar 12th mystery featuring Insp. Chen Cao (after Becoming Inspector Chen) finds Chen, an honest cop, reassigned to the newly created Shanghai Judicial System Reform Office due to his zeal in following the evidence, even if it implicates influential Communist Party members. With no real work, Chen's intrigued by an offer from a former colleague who heads a PI firm, which has been hired to exonerate a murder suspect, Min Lihua. Min, a chef and courtesan, operates a private kitchen that serves gourmet meals in a private home to selected guests with sufficient wealth and influence. Min's assistant chef, Qing, who was about to leave for another job, was found bludgeoned to death in Min's home following a private dinner, and Min's been charged with Qing's murder. Chen agrees to look into the case unofficially, finding unexpected help from his enterprising secretary, Jin. Qiu artfully creates parallels to a famous murder case from the Tang Dynasty. Newcomers and fans alike will look forward to how Qiu raises the stakes for Chen in the next book.