Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Review of A Loyal Character Dancer by Qui Xiaolong (Sceptre, 2002)
I reviewed the first book in the book in Chief Inspector series, Death of a Red Heroine, in 2009. It was a book I had struggled through, but since I was travelling to China I decided to give the second book, A Loyal Character Dancer, a go. The story was an improvement on the first, presenting an interesting view of China at the start of the period where it opens up to the West, using the arrival of a US Marshall to explore cultural differences. Chief Inspector Chen is relatively engaging as a lead character, prepared to take risks and challenge the party line and is reflective, quoting poetry as a way of making sense of the world. However, whilst he’s meant to be a talented and skilled cop, he makes a series of poor and amateur judgements throughout the story, culminating in setting off into the lion’s den with the main source of prey, telegraphing his arrival and bringing no back-up. Indeed, the procedural elements of the plot are a little weak throughout. Moreover, the dialogue is somewhat stilted. The result is a story that is interesting culturally, but falters with respect to the mystery, and whose resolution is far from convincing.