"[Qui's] lauded series of contemporary Shanghai crime novels . . . feature Chief Inspector Chen Cao. Like Qiu, Chen works as a translator, writes poetry, and maintains an ambiguous relationship with the ruling party. Qiu's debut novel, Death of a Red Heroine, won the prestigious Anthony Award for best first novel by a mystery writer and was ranked as one of the five best political novels of all time by The Wall Street Journal . . . Though ostensibly police procedural dealing with mayhem and malfeasance—albeit laced with classical Chinese poetry and the wisdom of Confucius—the novels' true subjects are Shanghai and the Communist Party. Though in his heart he wishes to be a poet and literary scholar, Chen has been forced into police work by the party. Likewise, Qiu, who was on a similar scholarly path, made an abrupt turn into English-language crime fiction credited in large part to the 1989 Communist crackdown after the Tiananmen Square protests. 'I came to St. Louis and Washington University in 1988 because of T.S. Eliot,' Qiu says. A Ford Foundation exchange scholar, he had already translated The Waste Land, The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock and other Eliot poems into Chinese. Qiu thought that his ongoing work on Eliot might be enriched by coming to the poet's hometown and to the university founded by Eliot's grandfather . . . He made a life in St. Louis with his wife, Wang Lijun, and daughter, Julia Qiu, teaching, translating and earning his doctorate in comparative literature from Washington University in 1995. Meanwhile, life back in China was changing dramatically. With the economy mushrooming and standard of living advancing, Qiu saw that the once-reviled capitalists had morphed into an honored class. He sought to chronicle those changes. 'My first book was meant to be about Chinese culture in this new age,' Qiu says. But as he sought a frame for the novel, he drew on his affection for mysteries and on the true crime stories he had encountered in his previous contacts with a Shanghai magazine. 'I like mystery. Maybe I can use that as a framework, I told myself,' Qiu says. 'It served my organizational purpose. And it is very easy for a cop to move around and ask questions and read documents others cannot.' He styled Chen as 'a thinking cop and an intellectual, not just someone who finds out who did it,' Qiu says, 'but also the cultural and social circumstances surrounding the crime' . . . His Inspector Chen novels give Qiu a way of understanding and accepting the past and present, he says."—Rick Skwiot, Washington Magazine “Thought-provoking, poetic and suspenseful.”—The Wall Street Journal “A meticulously crafted whodunit.”—The Japan Times "Peppered with poetry and told with clarity and elegance."—Kirkus Reviews “This environmental mystery is also an example of hard-hitting investigative reporting . . . Despite the grim subject matter, the novel is filled with beautiful descriptions and poetry (Chen is poet as well as detective) that reinforce the beauty that is being polluted and lost. Magnificent.”—Booklist (starred review)
Qiu Xiaolong is a poet and author of several previous novels featuring Inspector Chen as well as Years of Red Dust. Born and raised in Shanghai, where he was a renowned poet and translator, Qiu lives with his family in St. Louis, Missouri.