Sunday, May 15, 2011
The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang
In 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 6 years old when she last saw her father behind the wire fence of one of Mao's remote labour camps. Perhaps as a result, Mei Eschews the power plays and cultured 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, Ie 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 fark secrets and into her own tragic separation from the man she loved in equal parts.
I am not a fan of Asian authors and there’s a reason for that. I find that their writing is too intense like they try too hard, they had too much to lose and are just too serious. That doesn’t mean that I don’t read any at all - just not that often.
Anyway, I came across The Eye of Jade during a warehouse sale last year. I was attracted to it as a review at the book jacket by someone from BBC equates it to China’s version of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall. My instinct told me no, put the book back but part of me said why not give it a try.
It turns out that I should trust my instinct. The book wasn’t so bad, just a bit boring and the focus wasn’t so much in finding the Eye of Jade but more on her estranged relationship with her family especially her mother and also the choices she made to become a Private Investigator or ‘Information Consultant’ since PI is considered illegal in modern day China.
Anyway, it turns out that Eye of Jade is indirectly connected to her family history (i.e. her mother) and has another meaning. I guess this being the 1st book in a series that the author is writing on, set the tone and pace for other books to come. The 2nd book in the series is entitled Paper Butterfly and was published in 2009. I won’t mind reading it just to see how Mei fares as a PI, ops...sorry, I mean Information Consultant.