This time it’s The Mao Case, and it drags us deeper than ever into Qiu Xiaolong’s exploration of the Chinese dilemma with its Maoist history. There are the usual dilemmas here for Chen, his ambivalence about how to exist as both a cop and a poet, how to be in but not of the establishment, how to balance his contempt for the upper cadre of the party with his dependence on them both for his career and his identity.
In the case at hand, it appears that some unknown something that might discredit Mao’s memory, reveal him as a hypocritical sybarite whose brutal heritage is being visited unto the third generation of one of his most famous concubines, is missing and must be recovered and hidden. Chen not only has to find it, but find out what “it” is. And he must negotiate not only his official channels but the musty decadents of the pre-Mao society which Mao tried to destroy but still exist. Namely, the old 30’s luxuriants of Shanghai.
It’s a task that tests his every intellectual nerve and his powerful memory for poetry of every culture and era. Much of the ground we cover here is familiar, but in a satisfying and suspenseful way. Never will get tired of this guy, I don’t think.