Blurb: Shanghai, 1928. The body of a blonde is washed up on the Beach of Dead Babies, in the heart of the smog-filled city. Seemingly a suicide, a closer inspection reveals a darker motive: the corpse has been weighed down, it’s lower half mutilated…and the Chinese character for ‘justice’ carved into the chest.
The moment Inspector Danilov lays eyes on the dismembered body, he realises that he has an exceptional case on his hands. And when the first body is followed by another, and another, each displaying a new, bloody message, he has no option but face the truth. He is dealing with the worst kind of criminal; someone determined, twisted…and vengeful.
Someone who must be caught….whatever the cost.
Death in Shanghai is the first novel in M J Lee’s Inspector Danilov series, perfect for fans of Philip Kerr.
Links: Goodreads / Amazon UK
Shanghai, China. 1928. In a place where opium rules the people, and when serial killers are taboo, a woman’s body is found washed off on the beach. Her body is mutilated with Chinese letter, but the main concern of the police is that the woman is white and blond. European, not Chinese. After the first conclusion about some kind of revenge, another mutilated body shows up. Different body, different surrounding, different letter. But still, a letter carved deep into the skin. Is there a possibility that these killings are acts of a serial killer?
Inspector Danilov is in charge for the case. Russian, originally from Minsk, he used to work in Scotland Yard. His Chinese is far from perfect, but his ability to enter into killer’s mind is beyond the limits. From the first sight of the dead woman’s body, he realises that this is far from lover’s revenge. And when another body appears, the idea for a serial killer slowly appears in his mind.
Not so long time ago, Danilov had to leave his family in Minsk. Every day he misses his wife, daughter and son. There’s been war back home, a revolution, and his family is lost. He has no information about them, he doesn’t know are they dead or alive. Just a small ad in a newspaper gives him hope, that someone will see it and tell him the truth, whatever that is. In the meantime, an opium pipe settled in his apartment helps him to cope with the memories and his loneliness.
Danilov’s assistant, Strachan, half Chinese, is a very interesting character. He fights his entire life with the stigma of being half, he is Chinese among the English and English among the Chinese. His partnership with the Russian inspector seems like the best choice because they are both outcasts. His hero figure is his father, a cop who died on duty. He takes care for his mother and does his best to make his dead father proud of him. Strachan is a loyal friend, someone who can be trusted even when trust is questioned.
It is a real refreshment to read my favorite genre of a book set in a different surrounding and different time. The author set the plot in Shanghai, China, in 1928. The main character is Russian, who lives and works in Shanghai and his assistant is half Chinese. There are many international characters here, from the detectives in the police department to the witnesses along the places where victims are found and the victims themselves. The author described Shanghai in 1920-ties perfectly, he captured the image of the city where opium smuggling ruled, where prostitution and sex-change were something you see every day, where some people had distorted sense for justice in the world full of crime. Death in Shanghai is an interesting book, full of speculations, false leads and many turn-overs. Unpredictable, it takes you on a journey in a different place and time and makes you feel the life in a city that never sleeps.
My opinion: 4 / 5.
About the author: Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites. He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations. Whilst working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarter of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in 1920-ties and 30-ties. When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.