Summary and book reviews of Whispering Shadows by Jan-Philipp Sendker

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
    Paperback:
    Feb 2016, 352 pages

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Book Summary

The first in a suspenseful new trilogy by the internationally bestselling author of The Art of Hearing Heartbeats, this gripping story follows a retired expat journalist in contemporary China who tries to crack a murder case as he battles his own personal demons.

American expat Paul Leibovitz was once an ambitious advisor, dedicated father, and loving husband. But after living for nearly thirty years in Hong Kong, personal tragedy strikes and Paul's marriage unravels in the fallout.

Now Paul is living as a recluse on an outlying island of Hong Kong. When he makes a fleeting connection with Elizabeth, a distressed American woman on the verge of collapse, his life is thrown into turmoil. Less than twenty-four hours later, Elizabeth's son is found dead in Shenzhen, and Paul, invigorated by a newfound purpose, sets out to investigate the murder on his own.

As Paul, Elizabeth, and a detective friend descend deeper into the Shenzhen underworld - against the wishes of a woman with whom Paul has had a flirtation - they discover dark secrets hidden beneath China's booming new wealth. In a country where rich businessmen with expensive degrees can corrupt the judicial system, the potential for evil abounds.

Part love story, part crime thriller, Whispering Shadows is the captivating tale of one man's desperate search for redemption within the vice of a world superpower, a place where secrets from the past threaten to upend the country's unchecked drive towards modernization.

II

Paul was the last passenger to get off the ferry, and a hellish scene greeted him: two jackhammers pounded at a stretch of asphalt, and, next to them, growling buses expelled black clouds of exhaust. From behind a construction site barrier came clanking and crashing so loud and shrill that he winced at the shock of it, his ears hurting. All around him were crowds of people rushing here and there in a great hurry, constantly passing right in front of him and jostling him as soon as he stood still. He fled into a taxi and took it to the terminus of the Peak Tram; a pedestrian path up to the summit started there. The altitude difference was about sixteen hundred feet; it was a distance that he had covered without any problems before; on some days he had even done it with Justin on his back.

He took a big gulp from his water bottle, picked up his backpack, and started walking. The narrow road passed May Tower 1, May Tower 2, and Mayfair, incredibly expensive residential developments that...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

This novel explores a side of Hong Kong tourists rarely experience, but it has a conclusion that feels rushed despite action that moves at an almost glacial pace.

Publishers Weekly

Despite a predictable ending, it still packs a wallop.

Library Journal

The mystery is solved relatively early, and there isn't much suspense. The real strength of this book, the first in a new trilogy, is the fascinating exploration of Chinese and Hong Kong society and life. Recommended for those who love international mysteries, of course, but also for readers who will appreciate the lush descriptions of a beautiful country and culture.

Booklist

Starred Review. Sendker (A Well-Tempered Heart, 2014), a former Asia correspondent for Stern, applies insider experience to this darkly beautiful, heart-wrenching portrayal of the Cultural Revolution's devastating social legacy.

Author Blurb Joseph Kanon, New York Times bestselling author of Istanbul Passage
An absorbing mystery set in a Hong Kong tourists only glimpse - the dark underside of a money-making beehive trying to find its place in a cynically corrupt new China. Vivid and knowing.

Author Blurb Attica Locke, author of Black Water Rising, a finalist for the Orange Prize and Los Angeles Times Book Award
A stunning mystery in which a twisted murder investigation pulls back the curtain on a country whose culture and history have been shaped as much by our American capitalism as its own communism.

Reader Reviews

Sarah H. (Arvada, CO)

Characters are as strong as story
Sometimes character development and depth can take a backseat to the plot in a crime story. That is not the case with this lovely book that draws you in from the first pages. The author does a wonderful job of creating the environment for you, I ...   Read More

Mary B. (St Paul, MN)

Whispering Shadows
I enjoyed this book from the very beginning. The narratives of the sights, sounds, and history of Hong Kong, Lamma Island, Shenzhen,China and the surrounding areas were as important as the main characters and their individual stories. The food ...   Read More

Erin F. (Easton, MD)

A Compelling Read!
I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. I normally don't read this type of story. I could not put it down and I read it in 2 days. The crime aspect of this novel is compelling, but my favorite part was the characters and the ...   Read More

Frankie G. (Madera, CA)

Whispering Shadows spoke to me
Author new, just jump right in with both feet! As I read the first paragraphs I felt a strong pull to the character who had gone through what I had --loss of a beloved child. Familiar desire to hide and lick wounds, aching for him. Elizabeth came ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Shenzhen, a Special Economic Zone

One of the key elements of Whispering Shadows features Westerners conducting business in China, in particular in Hong Kong and the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen about 20 miles north of Hong Kong.

Downtown Shenzhen is studded with skyscrapers Before being anointed as the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) by then premier Deng Xiaoping in 1980, Shenzhen was an idyllic fishing village in Guangdong Province. But special status as an SEZ meant boom times with an annual growth rate of a whopping 28 percent (that rate slowed to 15 percent in 2005 and dropped further to 6.9 percent in 2015). The city was one of the anchors for China's booming economy, a mix of lax environmental regulations, large population of migrant workers and cheap land, attracting foreign investment. SEZs ...

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