It’s rare, in the mystery book genre, to find a protagonist that drinks. Oh, wait, you see that all the time. What’s really rare is a protagonist that writes poetry, or reads poetry, or reads at all, really. However, in Qiu Xiaolong’s wonderful Death of a Red Heroine, the main character, Chief Inspector Chen is a writer as well as a cop, and is always sprinkling in lines from classic Chinese poems into his conversations and thoughts. And, the mystery itself is good, while the setting and surroundings (late 80s China) are describing in a manner that’s both poetic and immersive. Add in a sidekick (Detective Yu) who’s got some sass in him and a whole host of intriguing surrounding characters (there’s even one called Overseas Chinese Lu) and intricate food descriptions and the following quote and you’ll be able to guess that I strongly suggest you read the book, for gosh sakes.
Behind him, across Zhongshan Road, stood the Peace Hotel with its black-and-red pinnacled roof. He had fantastized about spending an evening there in the jazz bar, in Wang’s company, with the musicians doing a great job with their piano, horns, and drums, and the waiters, starched napkins over their arms, serving Bloody Marys, Manhattans, Black Russians . . .
—Death of a Red Heroine, Qiu Xiaolong