Read advance reader review of Whispering Shadows by Jan-Philipp Sendker, page 6 of 9

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Whispering Shadows

by Jan-Philipp Sendker

Whispering Shadows by Jan-Philipp Sendker X
Whispering Shadows by Jan-Philipp Sendker
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 352 pages

    Feb 2016, 352 pages


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There are currently 63 member reviews
for Whispering Shadows
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  • Susan B. (Sarasota, FL)
    Shadows of lives continue to haunt us.
    Fate has a way of leading you thru this story filled with twists and turns you don't see coming. Paul Leibovitz is still grieving the death of his young son and is not looking to get involved with anything or anyone. He has lived in Hong Kong for a long time, speaks the language and has a good friend who lives in mainland China. His chance meeting of Elizabeth, a distressed lady whose son has gone missing in China, changes his life and the lives of those he knows.

    In trying to help Elizabeth, he contacts his old friend, Zhang, a detective in China, for his help. Thus begins a time of suspense as few people are who they appear to be, including friends.

    The book is rich in the history of China during the revolution and I enjoyed it for that contribution alone. It is interesting to see the revolution thru the eyes of people who were in it and are now a part of the reformed communist China. It also gives a lot of insight as to what living in Hong Kong is like.

    This would be a good book for a bookclub.
  • Diane P. (Concord, MA)
    At what cost
    The unexpected confluence of two events in my own life—the loss of a child and a son's recent wedding in Shenzhen—made my journey through Jan-Phillipp Sendker's novel, Whispering Shadows, startlingly intimate. This coincidence afforded me a clear perspective on the authenticity of the author's sensibilities about the interior struggle of his protagonist, Paul Leibovitz. As well, my academic background is suffused with the study of Chinese history and literature. My apprehensions were dispelled, almost instantly, by Sendker's sensitive Prologue, which set not only the scene but the mood of the narrative.

    Haunted by loss and despairing of his future, Paul Leibovitz eschews any personal contacts that might cause him to forget his son or to render him future pain. He has retreated to an isolated island off the coast of Hong Kong, venturing to the main island only when necessary. From this perspective, he seems a reluctant, improbable "detective." Nonetheless, he finds himself drawn back to life, yet the phrase "at what cost…." shadows his every move.

    Sendker's understanding of the modern Chinese dilemma—a complex ambivalence about capitalism—is both effective and important, for it haunts the central discourse of the novel. Indeed, it is Sendker's appreciation for his characters' memories of China's Cultural Revolution, in Deng Xiaoping's "enterprise zone" and throughout China, that creates the real tension in the novel. In many ways, the actual "mystery" is secondary; the absorbing questions are more "novelistic" and focus on the emotional development of several key characters.
    Thus the novel is really about emerging: the tortuous development of modern China and the equally painful movement away from absorbing loss. Memories whisper throughout: "at what cost…." does life continue.
  • Barbara F. (Westmont, NJ)
    Whispering Shadows
    A good read, a good mystery. It gives a look into other cultures and some history. It was a little slowing moving for me. It would make a good book club pick. There are many things that good be used for discussion.
  • Jean T. (Paducah, KY)
    Whispering Shadows
    I enjoyed this book as an interesting character and cultural study. I lived in Asia and traveled extensively in China in the late '90s and felt the author did an excellent job of reflecting the character of Hong Kong and Shenzhen. His character development exploring Paul's deep grief, as well as the trauma of the Chinese characters who grew up as victims of the Cultural Revolution was insightful and poignant. However, as a great fan of mystery novels, I found the mystery aspect of this novel disappointingly lacking in development. Perhaps he was a bit overambitious in selecting a murder mystery as the vehicle for the story. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. This is the first novel I've read by this author and I plan to read his prior novel and would gladly read future books.
  • Lynne B. (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
    Jan-Philipp Sendker Provides Another Wonderful Read
    Jan-Philipp Sendker has done it again. He has written another sure bestseller with Whispering Shadows. His ability to take you deep into the heart of his characters shines through in this novel. This story explores the meaning of love and trust as well as the weight of years of guilt and what it can do to a person. As Paul Leibovitz struggles to overcome his grief and guilt he is forced out of his isolation by his interactions with a lover and a best friend which sets the stage for a story of thrilling suspense on top of the deep character study. The setting of the story in present day Hong Kong and China provides the reader with an enlightened understanding of the political and business atmosphere driving the economy of this area. For those who like a book to provide them with characters that endear and make a lasting impression this book would have definite appeal. With so many themes to explore in this many layered novel this book will provide a lot of discussion for book groups.
  • Andrea B. (Phoenix, AZ)
    Contemporary China mystery
    The setting in contemporary Hong Kong and Shenzhen, China, was portrayed realistically from what I observed on a recent visit to Hong Kong and from news stories in the media. The main character is a westerner who had long lived in China, as is the author. The author's experience was undoubtedly a contributing factor to the believability of the characters, the setting and the circumstances of the story. The mystery of this story was intriguing, in large part due to the setting which portrayed business and cultural beliefs and practices. One of the most interesting aspects is the report of the experiences of two of the Chinese characters during the Cultural Revolution when they were part of the Red Guards. I had never given much thought to how those traumatic experiences might have affected those who lived through that difficult time in China. Now I see how many might have suffered what we now recognize as PTSD. There were places in this book where the writing was awkward and the transitions from one time and place to another were not smooth. Due to that, I would give this book 4 stars instead of the 5 that the characters and story line deserve. I see that this is the first of a proposed trilogy. I look forward to reading the next two!
  • Jeannie T. (Lexington, KY)
    A mystery with sentiment woven through
    Whispering Shadows is a mystery of the murder of an American business man set in China. As the story unfolds and the mystery is solved the main character, Paul, a recluse, is able to put his grieving for his own son aside, as he helps a mother find her son's murderer. The real story isn't so much about the solving the murder as it is about how Paul is able to allow life and love back into his living. The author did a wonderful job revealing to the reader the deep wound that he was buried in and how painful the process was as he slowly pulled himself out. This story is unique in that the character development is so good, that the mystery is secondary to the story.

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