Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Eye of Jade-Diane Wei Liang

The Eye of Jade
Diane Wei Liang
Simon & Schuster, Feb 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416549550

After quitting her position with the Ministry of Public Security, Mei Wang opens up a private investigative firm in Beijing. Her widowd mom and her sister are upset because they know Mei’s business is illegal and they live with the memory of the family’s patriarch taken away by Mao’s enforcers; her female relatives live within the “rules” of Communist society.

Long time family friend "Uncle" Chen Jitian hires Mei to find a valuable Han Dynasty jade seal once thought to have been destroyed along with other museum artifacts by the excesses of the Red Guard. Mei and her male assistant Gupin follow clues that take them to a dangerous part of the city where black market dealings are the norm. As the fuzzy picture begins to turn increasingly lucid, Mei realizes more than she would like as her family has secrets that tie back to the jade seal.

This is a terrific Chinese private investigator tale starring an independent feisty heroine who bucks the political climate, societal norms, and her family. The story line is fast-paced while providing a fascinating insight into schizoid modern day Beijing. The inquiry into the missing seal is well done and entertaining, but it is the look at China that makes THE EYE OF JADE compelling.

Harriet Klausner