Tuesday, September 16, 2008

REVIEW: The Eye of Jade

Title: The Eye of Jade
Author: Diane Wei Liang
ISBN: 9781416549550/Simon & Schuster
Protagonist: Private Detective Mei Wang
Setting: Present-day Beijing, China
Series: #1
Rating: B+

First Line: 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 Wang had a short-lived career in China's Ministry for Public Security. Now she's a private investigator, circumnavigating her country's restrictions against such a business by calling hers an information bureau. A family friend, "Uncle" Chen, hires her to find a very valuable piece of Han Dynasty jade, and it doesn't take her long to find several leads. But when her mother has a heart attack, Mei finds herself trying to juggle familial duty with the job she's being paid to do.

Diane Wei Liang was born in Beijing. She spent part of her childhood with her parents in a remote labor camp. In 1989 she was part of the protest movement in Tiananmen Square. As I was reading The Eye of Jade, I felt as if I were in Beijing. Mei Wang is a complex and ultimately likeable character who is persistent, intuitive, and has a knack for listening to things both said and unsaid when she deals with others. Her relationships with her sister and mother are uneasy at best, but the reader understands the reasons why. The plot, the pacing, the setting, the characterization were all top-notch in this book. It was interesting to see the old and new sides of China as Mei followed the leads in the case. If anything, I felt that The Eye of Jade was too short, and I'm looking forward to reading more books in the series.

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