BookBrowse Reviews Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart

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Jade Dragon Mountain

by Elsa Hart

Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart X
Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2015, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2016, 352 pages

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On the mountainous border of China and Tibet in 1708, a librarian-turned-detective races to solve a murder.

Elsa Hart's Jade Dragon Mountain is a fast-paced novel set in a remote town in 18th century China, just bordering Tibet. Rich detail of time, place and culture raise it above the usual mystery – its no wonder that this is one of our best scoring First Impressions books. 21 of 23 reviewers gave it a 4 or 5, and everyone is looking forward to the next installment in this exciting series!

How are our readers praising Elsa Hart's debut novel?

Medieval England has its Brother Caedfael, present-day Venice its Guido Brunetti; now 18th Century China has its Li Du, an appealing and sympathetic librarian/scholar recluse exile wandering through the "uncivilized, dangerous frontier" of the Southwest (Rebecca H). Jade Dragon Mountain is a wonderful escape into a land and era I have not read much about. The mystery revolves around the death of Brother Peiter, an educated astronomer and guest of the magistrate. The author creates a diverse cast of characters awaiting the momentous arrival of the Emperor and the impending eclipse. An absolutely wonderful, entertaining read and education about China during this period (Laurie F). What a fascinating read! This pivotal time in 18th Century China paints the backdrop for the intrigue and machinations at the Emperor's far outpost and adds to our appreciation of Chinese porcelains, books, and silks today. Realistic characters, amazing research, and a rewarding historical whodunnit! A book worth saving like prized antiques (Harriette W).

Readers are thrilled that a great new mystery series has begun:

Donna Leon's Commisario Brunetti and Louise Penny's Inspector Gamache are about to be joined by yet another great foreign detective (Lesley F). I have always loved mystery books and was not disappointed with this one – and just when you think the mystery is solved you are surprised by another one (Susan W). The plot thickens more and more as you continue to read, making you want more, wishing you could read faster (Jeanette L). I hope Ms. Hart will provide us with more tales from Li Du. If so, I'll save a place on my bookshelf for the introspective librarian next to my Brother Cadfael and Amelia Peabody mysteries (Amanda G). An intelligently written mystery that kept me guessing (Mary A). Li Du is a worthy addition to a long line of unlikely amateur detectives (Anna S).

They also agree that this is not just a mystery, but a historical story too, woven throughout with exceptional details:

What a debut! Full disclosure: I have a hot spot in my heart for historical fiction. Elsa Hart has not only captured the essence of old China in her descriptions but has also a brilliant way of expressing Chinese philosophy throughout the story (Lesley F). Jade Dragon Mountain is a novel to be savored. At times I forgot to follow the complex mystery and simply enjoyed the sights, the sounds, tastes and smells of 18th century Yunnan China. Elsa Hart has a gift for description – I felt I was present in this place (Mary Anne R). Jade Dragon Mountain is a sensuous book: I could indeed see, hear, feel, even taste the vivid descriptions and I am in awe of the tremendous amount of research and attention to detail about eighteenth century China done by the author (Florence K). I found the unusual setting very intriguing and the mystery challenging enough to hold my interest until the very last plot twist. Hart writes well, describing her characters memorably, the plot moves along quickly (Patricia M). Most interesting was the rich background and detail set forth in the book, such as the description of a bustling town preparing for an imperial visit, the fog creeping over the mountain, or a simple tea set - not to mention the political mindset of the day (Carol C).

Finally, our readers wholeheartedly recommend Jade Dragon Mountain:

This is a great novel for fans of historical fiction as well as detective fiction (Ann W). I would recommend this book to those who enjoy a mystery and learning the cultures of other countries (Barbara R). One realizes that greed and politics have always been a part of every place and period in time. Elsa Hart has written an interesting tale of intrigue set in a China 300 years ago. I recommend this novel! (Peggy A) I loved the book. What reader of mysteries wouldn't love an 18th century librarian sleuth? (Mary Anne R) A must-read for historical mystery fans (Amanda G).

This review was originally published in September 2015, and has been updated for the July 2016 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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