cover image Becoming Inspector Chen

Becoming Inspector Chen

Qiu Xiaolong. Severn, $28.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-7278-9044-3

Qiu deepens his Dalgliesh-like series lead in his superior 11th novel featuring Shanghai policeman and poet Chen Cao (after 2020’s Hold Your Breath, China). Chen’s latest investigation embarrassed the Beijing Communist Party leadership, and he’s fallen out of favor. Despite suspecting that he’ll soon lose his chief inspector position, Chen’s curious about a new case involving an anti-party poem posted on the country’s most popular social media platform, which reminds him of a previous inquiry. Flashbacks detail Chen’s first case, which centers on an old gourmet’s murder and involves “a piece of blood-speckled gauze, and a gray lizard with a strange name he failed to recollect.” That intriguing plotline is enhanced by an account of Chen’s painful childhood as the son of an academic deemed hostile to Mao’s regime and the events that led to Chen’s joining the Shanghai PD. While series fans will be delighted at the background Qiu provides, this is an accessible starting point for newcomers interested in a dogged, honest cop who must battle his own government to do his job. (Mar.)