Summary and book reviews of Ghost Month by Ed Lin

Ghost Month

by Ed Lin

Ghost Month by Ed Lin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2014, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2015, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Linda Hitchcock

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About this Book

Book Summary

Jing-nan is shocked to the core when he learns his ex-girlfriend from high school has been murdered. But the facts don't add up...

August is Ghost Month in Taiwan - a time to commemorate the dead: burn incense, visit shrines, honor ancestors, and avoid unlucky situations, large purchases, and bodies of water. Jing-nan, a young man who runs a food stand in a bustling Taipei night market, doesn't consider himself superstitious, but this August is going to haunt him no matter what he does.

He is shocked to the core when he learns his ex-girlfriend from high school has been murdered. She was found scantily clad and shot on the side of a highway where she was selling betel nuts to passing truck drivers. Beyond his harrowing grief for his lost love, Jing-nan is confused by the news. "Betel nut beauties" are usually women in the most desperate of circumstances; the job is almost as taboo as prostitution. But Julia Huang had been the valedictorian of their high school, and the last time Jing-nan spoke to her she was enrolled in NYU's honor program, far away in New York.

The facts don't add up. Julia's parents don't think so, either, and the police seem to have closed the case without asking any questions. The Huangs beg Jing-nan to do some investigating on his own - reconnect with old classmates, see if he can learn anything about Julia's life that she might have kept from them. Reluctantly, he agrees, for Julia's sake. But nothing can prepare him for what he learns, or how it will change his life.

Excerpt
Ghost Month

When I found out the girl I was going to marry had been murdered, I was sitting on a foldout stool at a sidewalk noodle shop in Taipei's Da'an District. My mouth went dry, my eyes blurred and I couldn't stop shaking. It was the hottest day in July, and the island's humidity was draped over me like a mourning veil, yet my body went cold and sweaty. Even my skin was crying.

I was somehow able to hold the newspaper still in my hands while reading and rereading the entire story of Julia Huang. It was only three paragraphs long. She had been shot in the head. She hadn't been wearing much. She had been working at an unlicensed betel-nut stand in Hsinchu City, an hour outside of Taipei. The surveillance camera—Taiwan's top crime-fighting tool—had malfunctioned, and no footage of the crime had been recorded.

I sighed and slumped over. I wished it hadn't been my Julia. I wished it had been almost anybody else. I thought about ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Native New Yorker Lin, who is of Chinese and Taiwanese descent, has clearly researched every aspect of the culture, customs and beliefs that enrich Ghost Month. He masterfully depicts the prevailing culture of this vibrant international city, and doesn't overlook key elements of social behavior, language and mores. Ghost Month is superbly written and provides plenty of conversational fodder making it an ideal selection for book clubs.   (Reviewed by Linda Hitchcock).

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Media Reviews

Murder By The Book

Starred Review. It wouldn’t be an Ed Lin book if there weren’t also humor in the story. Lin uses descriptions of Jing-nan’s funny and endearing relationships with his two food stall employees, Dwayne and Frankie, and his encounters with eccentric Shilin Market workers to balance Jing-nan’s sad and lonely search for who Julia was... a book with a great sense of place, a good story, interesting characters, and a tender heart.

Booklist

In this stand-alone thriller, Lin proves he can portray modern-day Taiwan as believably as he did 1970s Manhattan in his Robert Chow series (One Red Bastard, 2012).

Kirkus Reviews

The teeming Taipei setting and the tormented hero combine to create a furious energy that transcends a whodunit plot too mundane even to capture Jing-nan's full attention.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. For a guy who scoffs at the ghosts revered by so many of his fellow Taiwanese, droll everyman Jing-nan, a night-market food stall manager, ironically finds himself spending much of his time chasing one as he investigates the murder of his childhood sweetheart, Julia Huang, in this darkly comic thriller from Lin.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Taiwan's traditions play a major role in Lin's category-defying thriller that manages to be both funny and profound.

South China Morning Post

As in the crime novels of one of his literary mentors, Raymond Chandler, Lin's prose is frequently image-laden. Ghost Month is also an excellent introduction to Taipei's food culture—readers are likely to head to the nearest noodle shop after they're finished the book.

Author Blurb Lee Child
A unique blend of tension, charm, tragedy and optimism, with characters you'll love, and a setting so real you'll think you've been there. Highly recommended.

Author Blurb Martin Limón, author of Nightmare Range
Hold on for a breathtaking, multi-cultural ride. With some good luck and a few well-placed joss sticks, you just might survive.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Joy Division and Ian Curtis

Joy DivisionThe pairing of Ghost Month, a mesmerizing mystery set in contemporary Taiwan, with an introduction to the resolutely non-mainstream late seventies, post-punk English band Joy Division might seem unusual. However, Joy Division's gloomy, abjective music forms the weft interlaced throughout Ed Lin's fine novel. Despondent protagonist Jing-nan is obsessive about the band's music, whose lyrics were composed and performed by lead singer Ian Curtis.

Curtis — and his bandmates' — childhood in 1950s Manchester was bleak. Much of the city center had been heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe and had not yet been rebuilt. Buildings were grimy and tumbledown, the ancient sewer system was crumbling, and unemployment was rife with ...

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