I thoroughly enjoyed THE EYE OF JADE as it brings the reader directly into a fairly recent China, revealing how people live and work today as well as the turmoil of those families impacted by the Cultural Revolution. The author's affection for Beijing comes through and it feels more like a town than a city with more than ten million inhabitants.
The mystery side is a way of revealing Mei's and China's past and indeed the investigation hinges mainly on luck and coincidence to get the desired information and you never feel that Mei is in any danger in spite of the shady places and people she visits.
THE EYE OF JADE has been compared with the THE NO.1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY and I can see some similarities. Both authors write with a love for the country the books are set in, despite any faults. There is a cosy feel to each book and the importance of family and the kindness of strangers are important themes in both.
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 and Mr. Shao sat across a desk from each other. Both were perspiring heavily. Outside, the sun shone, baking the air into a solid block of heat.
Mr. Shao wiped his forehead with a handkerchief. He had refused to remove his suit jacket. "Money's not a problem." He cleared his throat. "But you must get on it right away."
"I'm working on other cases at the moment."
"Do you want me to pay extra, is that it? You want a deposit? I can give you one thousand yuan right now." Mr. Shao reached for his wallet. "They come up with the fakes faster than I can produce the real thing, and they sell them at under half my price. I've spent ten years building up my name, ten years of blood and sweat. But I don't want you talking to your old friends at the Ministry, you understand? I want no police in this."
"You are not doing anything illegal, are you?" Mei wondered why he was so keen to pay her a deposit. That was most unusual, especially for a businessman as shrewd as Mr. Shao.
"Please, Miss Wang. What's legal and what's not these days? You know what people say: 'The Party has strategies, and the people have counterstrategies.'" Mr. Shao stared at Mei with his narrow eyes. "Chinese medicine is like magic. Regulations are for products that don't work. Mine cure. That's why people buy them."
He gave a small laugh. It didn't ease the tension. Mei couldn't decide whether he was a clever businessman or a crook.
Read more of the extract on the Simon & Schuster website.