Monday, January 5, 2015

The Mystery of Moutai - G.X. Chen

Summary: A teenager returns home from school to find a gruesome scene: the apartment he shares with his mother, Shao Mei, in Boston’s Chinatown has been ransacked and she is dead. There is a bottle of Moutai—the most exotic and expensive Chinese liquor—left at the scene and traces of rat poison in one of the two shot glasses on the kitchen counter. This was evidently a homicide, but who could possibly be the killer?

Ann Lee and Fang Chen, close friends of the victim, team up with the Boston police to solve this mystifying crime: why would anyone want to murder a harmless middle-aged woman, one who worked as an unassuming mailroom clerk, with no money, no connections, and presumably, no enemies?

Realizing that important clues behind the motive may be buried deep in the victim’s past, they travel to Beijing, where Shao Mei spent more than fifty years of her life. While there, surrounded by the antiquities of China’s rich and complex history, they stumble unwittingly into a cobweb of mystery and danger. Fearing for their lives but determined to press on, they end up unearthing a scandal more deceptive and far-reaching than either could have imagined. (Summary and Pic from

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

My Review: The thing that’s hard about most mystery/murder books is the level of violence. It seems that, although murder is obviously very violent, the rest of the book must follow suit. Lots of mystery books embrace this fully and strive for that PG-13/R rating with sexual content, language, and other violence to boot. I am happy to report that this book did nothing of the sort. It was refreshing, actually, to not have to wade through the detritus of some authors’ determination to not only make their book about murder but about the grittiest of life’s situations as well.

The murder mystery in this book was nothing shocking—at the end I wasn’t really all that surprised about who it was—but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a good story or that there weren’t some interesting twists and turns along the way. I especially liked that the main characters working on solving the crime weren’t super heroes, making intellectual leaps and connections that no normal person could make. They seemed to be normal individuals who were solving the crime, which was a nice change from the normally Herculean efforts that come from those detective novels whose ability to solve crimes is downright uncanny, connecting dots that weren’t necessarily there with knowledge they didn’t necessarily have or that was placed in front of them by the author like a little trail of bread crumbs wherein at the end a huge intellectual leap can be made and all would be solved. This book was more realistic, which was refreshing.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this book was the cultural aspects of it. It takes place in America and China, and I really enjoyed the view of Chinese Americans and also Chinese immigrants going back to visit family in their home country. I learned a lot about the culture and it was a really interesting perspective, I thought, which added depth and richness to the book.

In the end I would say this is a quite little mystery book with an interesting story and likeable, realistic characters. It’s a nice change from the super grittiness of normal murder mystery books, but still provides enough intrigue and gore to not be totally light sauce.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the Sensitive Reader: There is some violence in this book, although it is light compared to other books in the genre. There is no sexual content and little offensive language. It would be rated PG.

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