Excerpt from A Case of Two Cities by Qiu Xiaolong, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Case of Two Cities

An Inspector Chen novel

by Qiu Xiaolong

A Case of Two Cities
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2006, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2007, 320 pages

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Print Excerpt


“Well, it’s no longer an age of showing off just for the sake of doing so. It’s a banquet for guanxi. Big bucks in the business for big bugs in the government,” Lei said, putting a chunk of beef onto Chen’s plate.

“As Old Master Du said,” Chen replied, “The meat and wine go bad behind the vermilion door; / by the roadside lie the bodies starved to death.”

“Life is short,” Lei said. “Let’s eat and drink.”

Across the aisle, a young girl was putting her bare foot on an old man’s thigh, her red toenails like rose petals blossoming out of his carrot-thick fingers.



After the meal, they moved down to the rest area on the second floor. It consisted of large halls and small private rooms. The halls were for common customers, where men and women kept coming and going in their striped pajamas. Private rooms came in different sizes, providing privacy and special service at varying prices.

“Look, it’s Tong Tian, the head of Zhabei District,” Lei whispered, casting a suggestive look toward a man stepping into the private room across the aisle.

“Yes, Secretary Tong. I recognize him too.”

“He has sent his wife and daughter abroad. Vancouver. His daughter studies in a private school. They have a mansion there.”

“Well—” Chen understood the implication. Tong’s government salary was perhaps about the same as Chen’s. It took no brains to figure out Tong’s means of supporting his family abroad.

“With the door closed, a couple of pretty young girls at your service, a few thousand yuan could go in a snap of fingers. The room fee alone costs five hundred yuan an hour.” Lei concluded with an unexpected twist: “If our Party cadres were all like you, China would have realized communism.”

The hall appeared cozy, comfortable. Each customer had a soft recliner and a side table for drinks and snacks, and two large projection TVs showed an American movie. In front of them, massage girls kept walking back and forth, like bats flitting in the dusk.

“We’ve talked enough corruption for an evening,” Chen said. “Not a pleasant topic after a rich meal.”

Copyright © 2006 by Qiu Xiaolong. All rights reserved.

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