Wednesday, 18 September 2013


Week 24 on the Crime Fiction Alphabet Journey hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. It would be fair to say, I’m not overly spoiled for choice this week in keeping to the format of my alphabet entries so far, highlighted enjoyed and unread gems that have inhabited or currently do the shelves of my dis-organised library.

Two offerings only this week, neither of which I have yet read, both with an eastern slant perhaps unsurprisingly.

Xinran, Xiaolong............2 unread

Xinran – Sky Burial

I will be completely frank and say I only discovered this author and book when researching possible additions to the library with the sole intent of padding out this week’s post. Apparently Sky Burial is based on a true story of a woman seeking news of her long missing husband. It has over 35 reviews on Amazon, with 24 of them 5 stars and only 1 paltry 2 star return with the rest scoring 3 or 4. Reviews are obviously subjective but at first glance it seems like it will be a decent read, without perhaps ticking the crime fiction genre box. I have recently read a crime fiction book – Tomorrow City - penned by an American based in Shanghai, but when I do eventually read this it will be interesting to acquire an eastern perspective on China and Tibet.    

As a young girl in China Xinran heard a rumour about a soldier in Tibet who had been brutally fed to the vultures in a ritual known as a sky burial: the tale frightened and fascinated her. Several decades later Xinran met Shu Wan, a Chinese woman who had spent years searching for her missing husband who had been serving as a doctor in Tibet; her extraordinary life story would unravel the legend of the sky burial. For thirty years she was lost in the wild and alien landscape of Tibet, in the vast and silent plateaus and the magisterial mountain ranges, living with communities of nomads moving with the seasons and struggling to survive.

In this haunting book, Xinran recreates Shu Wen's remarkable journey in an epic story of love, loss, loyalty and survival. Moving, shocking and, ultimately, uplifting Sky Burial paints a unique portrait of a woman and a land, both at the mercy of fate and politics.

Qiu Xiaolong – Death Of A Red Heroine

The second tome on the shelf marked X has been there for maybe 6 years or so. At a time when I decided to broaden my horizons reading-wise I acquired this book new. My plan to read a bit of Chinese detective fiction never materialized and it has gathered dust in the intervening period.  This was originally penned in 2000 and the author has subsequently written and published a total of 8 in the Inspector Chen series. Not sure when I will get to this, but I ought to at some point. Surprisingly for me, I haven’t yet been tempted to add more Chen books to the shelves in the meantime.

Shanghai in 1990. An ancient city in a country that despite the massacre of Tiananmen Square is still in the tight grip of communist control. Chief Inspector Chen, a poet with a sound instinct for self-preservation, knows the city like few others. 

When the body of a prominent Communist Party member is found, Chen is told to keep the party authorities informed about every lead. Also, he must keep the young woman's murder out of the papers at all costs. When his investigation leads him to the decadent offspring of high-ranking officials, he finds himself instantly removed from the case and reassigned to another area.

Chen has a choice: bend to the party's wishes and sacrifice his morals, or continue his investigation and risk dismissal from his job and from the party. Or worse . . .

Next week should be an easier week in regards to having something a bit meatier to highlight, even though my Y offerings have all been fairly recent additions to the library.

Check out other bloggers X-rated entries here


  1. Col - I'll be really interested in what you think of Death of a Red Heroine if you get the chance to read it. It's a different sort of story in my opinion. I like the sound of Sky Burial, too. I'll have to look that one up.

    1. Margot, hopefully I will get to one of the two titles sometime soon. I keep mentally reassembling and dismantling a loose reading schedule in my head. If I try and structure or plan my read my mojo disappears, but I'll try!

  2. Col, I'm intrigued by SKY BURIAL too since we get to read a lot about Tibet and the prevailing social, economic, cultural, and political conditions in Tibet. The Tibetans' government-in-exile is based in north India. I look forward to reading your review.

    1. Prashant unfortunately Tibet doesn't figure too prominently in the news much over here.
      Xinran has written many other books also, though I don't know if they touch on the above.
      Whilst China is taking some steps to modernise, I think there's a long, long way to go before writers, poets, artists etc can be totally expressive with their thoughts. I can't see Tibet escaping from the shadow of Chinese authority in my lifetime.

  3. I also will be interested in your views on the Qiu Xiaolong book. I have that book and five more by the same author because Glen read one or two of them and did not care for them. I am thrilled to have them, assuming I like them better than he did.

    Not so sure about the other book. I am always interested in fiction set in other countries but ...

    1. Tracy, of the two, I'm probably leaning more towards the Xinran one first to be honest.

      Sorry to hear Glen was disappointed with Xiaolong, I hope you fare better.

  4. I have enjoyed all of the Chief Inspector Chen series. The mingling of poetry into a police procedural makes them different from most mysteries. Chen is also an intriguing character.

    1. Bill, thanks - now you have me shuffling the Chen book higher up the pile again!