Search This Blog

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Say You're Sorry and Jade Dragon Mountain

Say You're Sorry by Michael Robotham is, as usual, a worthy addition to his Joe O'Loughlin series.  I've read 7 of his Joe O'Loughlin books and one excellent stand-alone:  Life or Death.  The books are generally pretty dark, and this one is no exception.  Two young girls disappear and are never found.  Three years later, Joe and his daughter are visiting Oxford and he is called in on the vicious murder of a man and his wife.  In the same time frame, a young woman's body is discovered frozen in a local lake.  

Robotham keeps the suspense palpable.  There are so many things I like about this series:  the protagonist has Parkinson's, his sidekick -Vincent Ruiz, the suspense, the pacing.  What I like less: the brutal and bizarre nature of many of the crimes.  

I'm quite committed to Robotham's books, but I could do with a little less malicious evil.

Library book.

Crime/Police Procedural.  2012.  433 pages.  

Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart is a debut novel set in China in 1708.  Li Du, formerly an imperial librarian in The Forbidden City, is now an exile making his way through the provinces.  He finds himself in Dayan, an outpost on the Tibetan border, where his cousin is the magistrate.  Li Du's  purpose is to get his papers checked before crossing into Tibet.  His cousin the magistrate also wants Li Du to move on quickly as Li Du's exile has caused the entire family to lose face.  

The city is in the midst of preparations for a ceremony in which the Emperor is to summon an eclipse.  The magistrate wants Li Du gone before the Emperor and his retinue arrive; Li Du's eagerness to leave is also evident.  

However, when a Jesuit astronomer is found murdered, both the magistrate and Li Du must adjust their plans.

The pace is leisurely.  Li Du investigates the murder without any modern methods.   His great skills in listening and observation lead him closer to a solution, but the method is slow and precarious. Everyone has secrets, most turn out to be unimportant, but some secrets are potentially disastrous.

Hart has introduced  a compelling character in Li Du and placed him in the fascinating milieu of the Qing Dynasty, an important transitional era.  The Kanxi emperor's initial fondness for the Jesuits, the conflict between Jesuits and Dominicans, the greedy eagerness of the East India Company to gain a foothold in China (unsuccessfully at the time) all add interesting elements to the story.

The language is often rich and poetic in a manner reminiscent of Chinese poetry and paintings:

"The Lady Chen's family wine is famous.  Plums...tasting of poetry."

A line from the description of the mountain mists:  "The next break in the cloud framed a waterfall, a still, silver column too distant for him to perceive its tumbling energy."

Lid Du accidently knocks a basket with his foot, spilling some peppers to the ground "where they glowed like setting suns."

As the first in a projected series, Hart has done a fine job. The ambience of the setting is vividly imagined; the characters of Li Du and Hamza are deftly handled and ready for further development and backstories; the historical elements are fascinating.

Library book.

Historical Mystery.  2015.  321 pages.

The most important tribute any human being can pay to a poem or a piece of prose he or she really loves is to learn it by heart. Not by brain, by heart; the expression is vital. George Steiner


  1. I'm becoming a fan of Robotham's books (I've now read two), but I know what you mean about the brutality and "bizarreness" of the crimes. It can be a little much...which is why I can't read his books back-to-back. I need breathing space between them.

    1. Several authors whose books I like don't seem to realize that their writing is good enough to enthrall a reader without having such vicious crimes. You are right, though, sometimes books of a certain genre need a little breathing space between them.

  2. These two books sound fascinating. Say You're Sorry sounds like a very intense thriller and I'm glad to hear you're enjoying this series, Jenclair. The premise of Jade Dragon Mountain seems refreshing to me for I don't think I've read any like this before. I love it that there's a mystery amid this historical fiction. :-)

    1. I like both of them for different reasons! Isn't the cover of Jade Dragon Mountain beautiful? I found the information about the Qing Empire fascinating. :)

  3. Say You're Sorry is pretty dark. I really like Robotham's books, but I can only take so much of those types of mysteries anymore.

    Jade Dragon Mountain sounds good. I haven't read too many mysteries set in that time period or location. I'm quite fond of historical mysteries, especially set in locales other than my own.

    1. Jade Dragon Mountain is a slower kind of mystery. I think the author does a great job of setting up a new series in a time and culture that is compelling for many reasons.