cover image Jade Dragon Mountain

Jade Dragon Mountain

Elsa Hart. Minotaur, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-07232-0

Political and religious intrigue drives Hart’s compelling debut set in 18th-century China. Disgraced Beijing librarian Li Du arrives in Dayan near the border with Burma to find his ambitious magistrate cousin preparing for the visit of the emperor and a major festival that will feature an eclipse, according to the emperor’s prediction. The sudden death of Pieter van Dalen, an elderly Jesuit astronomer, is attributed to natural causes until Li Du discovers the man’s tea was poisoned. Distrusting the conclusion that local bandits were responsible, the modest but tenacious librarian looks for potential perpetrators in his cousin’s household, including a Jesuit botanist with secrets, an English representative of the East India Company eager for trade deals, an exotic storyteller, an embittered old servant, and an enigmatic beauty serving as the magistrate’s first consort. An attempt on Li Du’s life indicates that he’s closing in on the answer. Hart’s sure command of historical complexities, conflicts between cultures, and plot twists leads to a satisfying conclusion. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Gernert Company. (Sept.)