The Dragon Eye series - The Cousins of Taiwan
The discovery of a mutilated corpse at the senior inspector’s wedding reception in Nanjing is hardly a good omen. Drop the case and get on with your married life, his colleagues beg him. Unable to shake it off, the vicious crime peruses him to his honeymoon destination on the renegade island of Taiwan. Is Taiwan a part of China, belonging ultimately to Beijing or simply a cousin of the mainland? Haifeng discovers a tranquil, welcoming people who were spared the madness and the scars of the Cultural Revolution and the frenetic destruction of its natural resources – a China that could have been and that has conserved its greatest treasures. But is it really a paradise? Haifeng identifies the wedding-day victim as Taiwanese – slaughtered using an ancient Taiwanese art of massage knives. The murder is just the first in a series, each linked to an ancient Chinese craft, and each victim mutilated accordingly – using calligraphy, ceramics, ornate glass and carved jade. With no official China-Taiwan police cooperation between the two adversaries, how can Haifeng stop the butchery and get on with his life? Working off the record with his Taiwanese counterpart, the link between the victims becomes clear to Haifeng – all from families that fled the communist troops seventy years earlier, and seeking refuge with the nationalists in Taiwan. What crimes had their fathers committed whilst fleeing for their children to be butchered this way? Others are on the list. He must track them down on both sides of the Taiwan Straits and warn them, only the serial killer is one step ahead – until uncultured Haifeng is plunged into a volume of classic Chinese literature and into the ancient art of hand-made silk brocade, and understands what exactly is at stake.
The Dragon Eye series
Following his wife’s death Public Security Bureau officer Tian Haifeng is transferred to his home town of Nanjing as CID Senior Inspector. Living with his sister and teenage son, he has made his mark on his old patch, gaining the trust of Divisional Head Hu Tang and working closely with junior officer Jin Yun.
Haifeng sticks out in a crowd with his burnished skin and face of a mountain peasant – certainly not the face of his deceased Han mother or drunkard Han father, and with each case he works on, he is unconsciously seeking his own origins. For him, an unsolved murder is an unread story and a betrayal of the victim.
As a detective, Haifeng is not the classic hard-nosed loner. Though he doesn’t suffer fools, he is a man who understands the underdog and the downtrodden, and fights for them. He has to navigate the political minefields of his job, raise a teenage son, and handle his own love life. China is changing, and so must Haifeng.
This originality of this series is in its blend of crime fiction with the discovery of local culture in widely diverse regions of China: Xinjiang in the remote north-west, Yunnan in the foothills of Tibetan plateau, the capital Beijing, the “renegade” island of Taiwan, and the north-east province of Shandong, for the first five in the series.
The investigations take the reader off the beaten path, avoiding, on the whole, over-familiar Chinese issues such as pollution, politics and freedom. Instead, they are woven from myriad of every-day incidents of a uniquely local colour – elements and leads that Tian Haifeng discovers and follows in each case.
Although the series develops chronologically each book can be read as a stand-alone crime novel. The French publisher of Martin Long, In Octavo, has started the series with The Sisters of Beijing (“Les Soeurs de Pékin”).
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