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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
City of Ink

City of Ink

A Mystery

Li Du Novels (Volume 3)

Elsa Hart

Minotaur Books

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Following the enthralling 18th century Chinese mysteries Jade Dragon Mountain and White Mirror, comes the next Li Du adventure in City of Ink.

Li Du was prepared to travel anywhere in the world except for one place: home. But to unravel the mystery that surrounds his mentor’s execution, that’s exactly where he must go.

Plunged into the painful memories and teeming streets of Beijing, Li Du obtains a humble clerkship that offers anonymity and access to the records he needs. He is beginning to make progress when his search for answers buried in the past is interrupted by murder in the present.

The wife of a local factory owner is found dead, along with a man who appears to have been her lover, and the most likely suspect is the husband. But what Li Du’s superiors at the North Borough Office are willing to accept as a crime of passion strikes Li Du as something more calculated. As past and present intertwine, Li Du’s investigations reveal that many of Beijing’s residents — foreign and Chinese, artisan and official, scholar and soldier — have secrets they would kill to protect.

When the threats begin, Li Du must decide how much he is willing to sacrifice to discover the truth in a city bent on concealing it, a city where the stroke of a brush on paper can alter the past, change the future, prolong a life, or end one.

Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year

Chapter 1


“Audacity is what distinguishes the great scholars from the merely successful ones. Twenty-two years ago, when the examiners asked me to arrange the chapters of The Great Learning into their most proper order,...

Praise for City of Ink

“Rich in period detail, a sharply rendered exotic setting, and a web of well-crafted plots, Li Du’s third novel will appeal to fans of historical mysteries by Lisa See, Laura Joh Rowland, and Abir Mukherjee.” – Booklist (starred review)


“Highly atmospheric and elegantly appointed, this mystery from Hart (The White Mirror, 2016, etc.) shines brightest in her detective's sublime cat-and-mouse interrogations of the gallery of witnesses and suspects. The introverted, intellectual sleuth is a perfect match for most any armchair detective.” –Kirkus (starred review)

“As always, Hart excels at making even walk-on characters fully realized and at combining a gripping whodunit plot with a vivid evocation of the period. This entry solidifies her status as a top-notch historical mystery author.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Elsa Hart’s third Li Du novel continues to impress. The mystery is multilayered and keeps you guessing. The setting breathes within the narrative, vividly enchanting readers into 18th-century China. Hart’s narration has a musical quality that is descriptive while adding cultural flair. From the way tea leaves sulk in a cup to the way walls drape across the landscape like a necklace, the prose is beguiling. With an intelligent plot, intriguing characters, and historical depth, this book is a delight!” – Historical Novel Society

Reviews from Goodreads

Elsa Hart

ELSA HART was born in Rome, Italy, but her earliest memories are of Moscow, where her family lived until 1991. Since then she has lived in the Czech Republic, the U.S.A., and China. She earned a B.A. from Swarthmore College and a J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. City of Ink is her third novel.

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Virginia Harold

Read more from the author at Medium

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