Red Mandarin Dress

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Qiu Xiaolong, author of the “Inspector Chen” series of crime novels set in Shanghai, gave a talk here on Sunday in advance of the publication of the fifth in the series: Red Mandarin Dress, which comes out at the end of this month. The story this time is about a series of murders in which the victims are all young women wearing red qipaos, or traditional Chinese dresses. Qiu, a Shanghai native who has lived since 1988 in St. Louis, has made quite a name for himself with these novels, which have been compared to Martin Cruz Smith’s six `Arkday Renko’ tales (Gorky Park, Havana Bay, etc) . Not bad for someone who learned English as a second language. (Qiu does indeed write the novels in English, he said yesterday).
I haven’t read this one yet—just picked it up yesterday—but from his talk it sounds as if it will be, like the previous novels, both educational and entertaining: Qiu, who has friends who work as investigators and police officers in town, writes well about the underbelly of life in modern Shanghai, “a city in constant transition,” as he put it. After I’ve read the book I’ll do an on line interview with him to talk more about the latest in the series—the sixth of which, he said, he’s already started.