Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Thief of Souls by Brian Klingborg

First Line: On the night the young woman's corpse was discovered, hollowed out like a birchbark canoe, Inspector Lu Fei sits alone in the Red Lotus bar, determined to get gloriously drunk.
Usually, Inspector Lu Fei investigates nothing more serious than the theft of a few chickens in the rural northern Chinese town where he lives, but the brutal murder of a young woman means the Beijing CID sends one of its rising stars to take over. However, prosperity and stability are much more important to China than the death of an insignificant village girl, so pinning the death on the first likely suspect seems to be the order of the day. But not for Lu Fei.
Lu Fei wants justice for the murdered girl, so he continues to dig deeper. As a result, he finds himself at loggerheads with local Communist Party leaders and corrupt business interests, but he becomes more determined than ever when he links the girl's death to other unsolved crimes.
Brian Klingborg's first Inspector Lu Fei mystery set in northern China had me looking for a heavy winter coat and a thicker pair of gloves. It was interesting to read a mystery set in an area other than one of the well-known large cities, especially one in the Harbin area which has a strong Russian influence. 
Lu Fei is a strong main character. Luckily for him, he's well versed in the martial arts, but he lives a very lonely life, spending many evenings after work drinking in a local bar. One of the reasons why he's lonely is due to his integrity. He's going to do what's right, no matter what, and that puts him at odds-- over and over again-- with corrupt police officers. He even has problems with the constables in his station. The constables' pay is unbelievably low, and they get so much disrespect from people that they have no real incentive to do their jobs properly.
The strongest parts of Thief of Souls are Lu Fei himself and all the information Klingborg gives readers about modern China, a lot of which is fascinating, and I felt that I came away from the book with a much better understanding of the country. However, that presented a problem. The author had to interject this information into the story so often that I began to feel as though I were attending class instead of reading a mystery. To his credit, I really don't see how he could've done this any differently. The information was crucial to the story, but it constantly interrupted the flow.  

I also found the killer's identity much too easy to deduce, and I hope Klingborg spends more time in the next book fleshing out his secondary characters because, even though Lu Fei is an interesting character, he can't do it alone. 

Even though this first book in the series has some problems, it's still a read that kept my interest throughout, and I'll be interested to see what sort of investigation Lu Fei will be heading next.

Thief of Souls by Brian Klingborg
eISBN: 9781250779069
Minotaur Books © 2021
eBook, 288 pages
Police Procedural, #1 Inspector Lu Fei mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


  1. The first thing I noticed about this, Cathy, was the setting. It sounds very well done, and that means a lot to me. I hope, too, that the series improves as it goes along; it sounds as though it has a lot of potential.

  2. Will skip this. Your rating and review don't inspire me. So much to read -- those 425 new crime novels out this fall. Surely there are a lot of good ones. I'm sure you will find many of them.

  3. I enjoyed this one for the same reasons, and am willing to give the next book a try to see if the author improves from this start.

    1. There's lots of potential, and I hope he brings it to fruition.

  4. :) I enjoyed the cultural background and bureaucracy--I often find those elements of China much more frightening than the murders. There is plenty of room to develop the secondary characters, and hopefully, Klingborg will do so.

    1. I always feel sorry for the Chinese people who have to deal with their government's latest idiocy. Take for instance the one child per family rule. With the Chinese cultural emphasis on sons, what did those geniuses think was going to happen? Now there aren't enough women to have babies and their work force has taken a nosedive. Sheesh...


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