Monday, December 9, 2013
Review of The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang (Simon and Schuster, 2008)
Many detective stories seek to balance the back story and everyday life of the detective with the investigation and the resolution of the mystery. In most cases, the balance veers towards the mystery element of the story, with the main character’s personal life and history taking a back seat. In The Eye of Jade, Diane Wei Liang reverses this balance. The story mostly focuses on the main character, Mei Wang, and her relationship to her mother and sister, and the family’s murky past tied up in the Cultural Revolution. As such, the mystery element to the story is largely a plot device to enable the family history and present relations to be examined. As a result, the investigation is a little thin and sketchy, with a somewhat quick and weak resolution. This is, however, compensated to a degree by some nice characterisation, especially Mei Wang as a strong willed woman who is a little out of sync and place with Chinese social norms, and nice contextualisation with respect to life in Beijing, Chinese culture and values, family relationships, and China’s recent past. Overall, a detective story that needed a little more focus on the mystery element, but nonetheless an interesting read.