Jade and Fire

Raymond James Barnett, Author Random House (NY) $19.95 (370p) ISBN 978-0-394-55859-2
In the winter of 1948, during the Communist seige of Peking, chief police inspector Bei is called to a Taoist temple, where the prior has been burned to death by a group pf dissident monks. The clues that he uncovers point toward a Communist underground, but Bei's search is unexpectedly and mysteriously blocked by the Nationalist general defending Peking. Meanwhile, in another part of the city, expensive courtesans are found with their throats slit. As Peking mobilizes to prevent destruction, Bei gathers evidence connecting these separate events, all the while struggling to maintain a civilized way of life that is equally beseiged. At times the inspector's methods recall those of Sherlock Holmes, but tea rituals, discourse on Taoism and sensual grace notes place this ambitious first novel firmly in the East. Though its intriguing blend of history and fiction isstet sometimes marred by unconvincing dialogue and murky plotting, Barnett, a California professor of biological sciences, here makes a promising debut. (June 30)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1987
Release date: 06/01/1987
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