Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

More Political Corruption in China; Subtle Errors Can Mean Trouble in Shanghai in Latest Book of St. Louisan's Detective Series; FICTION - BOOKS

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

More Political Corruption in China; Subtle Errors Can Mean Trouble in Shanghai in Latest Book of St. Louisan's Detective Series; FICTION - BOOKS

Article excerpt

In his eighth novel in this detective series, Qiu Xiaolong has fashioned Chief Inspector Chen Cao of Shanghai into an ambiguous figure who may know what's right but has become unsure about his moral choices.

In "Enigma of China," Chen, always a figure of rectitude as he confronted the corruption of Chinese Communist Party officials in previous crimes, has risen to first deputy party secretary of his police bureau. In other words, he has advanced in the party to the point that he has more to lose than in previous cases.

And the cases Chen faces inevitably pit the morally upright detective against craven party bosses.

For his latest mystery, Chen is called in to investigate the "suicide" of Zhou Keng, the son of a major party member. Zhou had been pulled from public view and put up in a Shanghai hotel.

This is a political purgatory known as shuanggui meaning a specific place and a specific time where errant and embarrassing party officials would languish. We are familiar with such matters, as in the disappearance for a time of Bo Xilai, former party leader in Chongqing, in a corruption case involving his wife and the murder of a British businessman.

Shuanggui can last for long periods until the shameful official is "handed over to the government prosecutors months or even years later for a show trial and predetermined punishment."

"From time to time, senior Party officials vanished into shuanggui, and no information was made available to the police or media," we learn.

Zhou was being hidden because a picture of him smoking from a package of 95 Supreme Majesty cigarettes was posted on the Internet. The point here is that Zhou's role as head of the Shanghai Housing Development Committee didn't entitle him to smoke such expensive and prestigious cigarettes.

Whoever posted the picture wanted to show that Zhou was corrupt. In no time, Internet attacks began and charges of malfeasance made. Zhou had become a big liability.

But why, Chen wonders, would Zhou hang himself right after eating a fine meal in his hotel room? And why did he take sleeping pills if he was going to end his life?

Chen starts checking around, but he must contend with other "investigations" by party officials. The police have to wait until leaders signal which way they should lean in their prosecution of an alleged crime. …

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