Source: Bought from Half.com
Back Cover Blurb:
"Having her own detective agency would give her the independence she had always longed for. It would also give her the chance to show those people who shunned her that she could be successful. People were getting rich. They owned property, money, business, and cars. With new freedom and opportunities came new crimes. There would be much that she could do."
Present day, Beijing. Mei Wang is a modern, independent woman. She has her own apartment. She owns a car. She has her own business with that most modern of commodities--a male secretary. Her short career with China's prestigious Ministry for Public Security has given her intimate insight into the complicated and arbitrary world of Beijing's law enforcement. But it is her intuition, curiosity, and her uncanny knack for listening to things said--and unsaid--that make Mei Beijing's first successful female private investigator.
Mei is no stranger to the dark side of China. She was six years old when she last saw her father behind the wire fence of one of Mao's remote labor camps. Perhaps as a result, Mei eschews the power plays and cultural mores--guanxi--her sister and mother live by...for better and for worse.
Mei's family friend "Uncle" Chen hires her to find a Han dynasty jade of great value: he believes the piece was looted from the Luoyang Museum during the Cultural Revolution--when the Red Guards swarmed the streets, destroying so many traces of the past--and that it's currently for sale on the black market. The hunt for the eye of jade leads Mei through banquet halls and back alleys, seedy gambling dens and cheap noodle bars near the Forbidden City. Given the jade's provenance and its journey, Mei knows to treat the investigation as a most delicate matter; she cannot know, however, that this case will force her to delve not only into China's brutal history, but also into her family's dark secrets and into her own tragic separation from the man she loved in equal parts.
The first novel in an exhilarating new detective series, The Eye of Jade is both a thrilling mystery and a sensual and fascinating journey through modern China.
This book is more of an entertaining way to learn about a culture than a mystery book. If you liked "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," then you'll probably enjoy this story. The first chapters of the book were full of flashbacks, and the whole story was full of strange metaphors, but the information about modern China was fascinating. The mystery itself was decent but was never fully the focus of the book. As in, don't buy this book solely because you want to read a mystery because you'll be frustrated.
The characters were interesting, and the world-building was thorough. There were no explicit sex scenes or noticeable cussing. I'd rate this as "good, clean fun."
Excerpt: Chapter One
In the corner of an office in an old-fashioned building in Beijing's Chongyang District, the fan was humming loudly, like an elderly man angry at his own impotence. Mei and Mr. Shao sat across a desk from each other. Both were perspiring heavily. Outside, the sun shone, baking the air into a solid block of heat.
Mr. Shao wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. He had refused to remove his suit jacket. "Money's not a problem." He cleared his throat. "But you must get on it right away."
"I'm working on other cases at the moment."
"Do you want me to pay extra, is that it? You want a deposit? I can give you one thousand yuan right now." Mr. Shao reached for his wallet. "They come up with the fakes faster than I can produce the real thing, and they sell them at under half my price. I've spent ten years building up my name, ten years of blood and sweat. But I don't want you talking to your old friends at the Ministry, you understand? I want no police in this."
"You are not doing anything illegal, are you?" Mei wondered why he was so keen to pay her a deposit. That was most unusual, especially for a businessman as shrewd as Mr. Shao.
"Please, Miss Wang. What's legal and what's not these days? You know what people say: 'The Party has strategies, and the people have counterstrategies.'" Mr. Shao stared at Mei with his narrow eyes. "Chinese medicine is like magic. Regulations are for products that don't work. Mine cure. That's why people buy them."
He gave a small laugh. It didn't ease the tension. Mei couldn't decide whether he was a clever businessman or a crook.
"I don't like the police--no offense, Miss Wang, I know you used to be one of them. When I started out, I sold herbs on the street. The police were always on my tail, confiscating my goods, taking me into the station as if I were a criminal. Comrade Deng Xiaoping said Ge Ti Hu--that individual traders were contributors to building socialism. But did the police care for what he said? They're muddy eggs. Now things are better. I've done well, and people look up to me. But if you ask me, the police haven't changed. When you need protection, they can't help you. I asked them to investigate the counterfeits. Do you know what they told me? They said they don't do that kind of work. But whenever there is a policy change, an inspection, or a crackdown, you can bet they'll jump on me like hungry dogs."
"Whether you like the police or not, we must play by the book," Mei said, though she knew her voice was less convincing than her words. Private detectives were banned in China. Mei, like others in the business, had resorted to the counter-strategy of registering her agency as an information consultancy.
"Of course," agreed Mr. Shao. A smile as wide as the ocean filled his face.