I’m participating in Soho Crimes 25th Anniversary Read Along. Soho Crime is celebrating 25 years of publishing International crime fiction with a reading challenge. I’m reading my way through Lisa Brackmann over the next few months,
About the book (from the publisher): American Iraq War veteran Ellie Cooper is living in Beijing when a chance encounter with an Uighur – a member of the Chinese Muslim minority – at the home of her sort-of boyfriend Lao Zhang turns her life upside down. Lao Zhang disappears, and suddenly multiple security organizations are hounding Ellie for information. They say the Uighur is a terrorist. Ellie doesn’t know what’s going on, but she must decide whom to trust among the artists, dealers, collectors, and operatives claiming to be on her side – in particular, a mysterious organization operating within a popular online role-playing game. As she tries to elude her pursuers, she’s haunted by memories of Iraq. Is what she did and saw there at the root of the mess she’s in now?
My review: Thoroughly modern, edgy, complex and compelling, this thriller captivated me from the start. Brackmann’s familiarity with modern-day China has created a detailed and so-real-it-jumps-off-the-page world. Modern Beijing, villages that are seem to be of another century, powerful and secretive organizations lurking in the shadows, the role of artists and freedom to express opinions in a culture – all of that and more is brought to life on the pages of Rock Paper Tiger.
The protagonist, Ellie, is in China because she followed her husband there. They met in Iraq and are now separated. Ellie was injured and is haunted by that war as she tries to find her place in this foreign country. The plot is complex, the pacing and build to the denouement excellent, and in Ellie, Brackmann has created an almost anti-heroine, who is reluctantly thrown into a world that mystifies her, where men in suits follow her, where shadowy figures watch her every move.
I found it to be very compelling and I couldn’t put it down. Role-playing games (a whole new world to me,) Abu Ghraib-like atrocities, modern-day China, and a world where no one seems to be telling the truth; all of that adds heft and texture to this thoroughly modern thriller.
I recommend it.
About the author: Lisa Brackmann’s debut novel, Rock Paper Tiger, set on the fringes of the Chinese art world, made several ‘Best of 2010’ lists, including Amazon’s Top 100 Books and Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers and was a New York Times best seller. Her second novel, Getaway, a thriller in Mexico, was chosen as an ALA Summer Reading Pick and was a finalist for SCIBA’s T. Jefferson Parker Award. Lisa’s latest book, Hour of the Rat, features the return of Ellie McEnroe on another wild adventure in today’s China. Hour of the Rat was shortlisted for Left Coast Crime’s Calimari (international mystery) award and was nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Audio Book. The third Ellie McEnroe novel, Dragon Day, was published in August 2015.
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