About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

“X” is for Qiu Xiaolong

Kerrie Smith’s Alphabet in Crime Fiction at her blog, Mysteries in Paradise, is close to the end of the alphabet. I encourage readers to look up all the terrific books and authors that have been profiled on her blog for the past 23 weeks. For “X” I have chosen Qiu Xiaolong.


Qiu Xiaolong is a Chinese born mystery author and poet. He has created a wonderful mystery character in Inspector Chen. I have enjoyed two books in the series – Death of a Red Heroine and A Case of Two Cities. On Tuesday I will post my review of Death of a Red Heroine. Wednesday I will be posting my review of A Case of Two Cities.

Qui was born in Shanghai and grew up in China. While studying poetry in Bejing he translated the complete works of T.S. Eliot. He came to the United States in 1988 to write a book on Eliot. After the Tianmen Square Protests in 1989 it became public knowledge he had raised money for Chinese students. Fearing prosecution in China he stayed in America. He earned a doctorate in English and teaches at Washington University. He is currently a resident of St. Louis, Missouri.

Qui is both a poet and a translator of poetry. His mysteries have a unique feel to them because of the frequent quotations from Chinese poetry. The quotes do not make the books pretentious. They add to the setting, the plots and the personalities of the characters.

In Cara Black’s excellent interview she asks Qui if living in St. Louis gives him a “needed distance” to write about China. He agrees completely with her and provides a quotation in confirmation. He quotes  Song dynasty poet Su Dongpo, "You cannot see the true face of Mount Lu, / Because you are in the mountains."

While I like the plots of the book I love the vivid portrayals of life in China during the 1990’s as the country undergoes a massive economic transformation while maintaining a Communist government. Qui’s books show how the leadership of the Communist Party had developed an elite status for themselves and their families in the 1990’s. What has happened to the socialist ideals that were at the core of the Party? His books delve into the values of a society in transition.

If you are interested in reading about Qui and the translation of Chinese poetry to English there is an interesting article at http://thebrowser.com/interviews/qiu-xiaolong-on-classical-chinese-poetry. Qui starts by explaining the challenges of translation “because classical Chinese poetry is rhymed and each line consists of five or seven Chinese characters, not to mention a specific tone pattern involving each character in the line”.

Sources for this post include his website is www.qiuxiaolong.com/, the biography in Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qiu_Xiaolong and the interview of Black at http://www.mysteryreaders.org/athomeqiu.html.


  1. Bill - I will be very interested in what you think of Death of a Read Heroine and A Case of Two Cities. In the meantime, thanks for this background on Qiu Xiaolang. It's interesting to see, I think, how his background in poetry has influenced his other fiction.

  2. Thanks for this great post Bill and your ongoing support. Today you have highlighted an author I have been meaning to get to. Please link your two reviews into the CFA Mr Linky once they are posted

  3. You have me intrigued. I will be looking forward to your review.
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  4. Margot, Kerrie and Charmaine - Thank you for the omments.

    Margot: Few mystery writers use poetry in their books.

    Kerrie: Thank you for the invitation. I will link the reviews into Mr. Linky.

    Charmaine: I hope you enjoy the reviews.

  5. This coincidence comes as no surprise to me, given the amount of writers that can be found whose name starts with an X.
    However Xiaolong is not only a good example but an interesting author to follow.
    I look forward to your reviews, Bill.

  6. Jose Ignacio: Thanks for the comment. Xiaolong has led an intriguing life and is a keen observer of China.