Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Mystery of Moutai

21470026A teenager returns home from school to find a gruesome scene: the apartment he shares with his mother, Shao Mei, in Boston’s Chinatown has been ransacked and she is dead. There is a bottle of Moutai—the most exotic and expensive Chinese liquor—left at the scene and traces of rat poison in one of the two shot glasses on the kitchen counter. This was evidently a homicide, but who could possibly be the killer?

Ann Lee and Fang Chen, close friends of the victim, team up with the Boston police to solve this mystifying crime: why would anyone want to murder a harmless middle-aged woman, one who worked as an unassuming mailroom clerk, with no money, no connections, and presumably, no enemies?

Realizing that important clues behind the motive may be buried deep in the victim’s past, they travel to Beijing, where Shao Mei spent more than fifty years of her life. While there, surrounded by the antiquities of China’s rich and complex history, they stumble unwittingly into a cobweb of mystery and danger. Fearing for their lives but determined to press on, they end up unearthing a scandal more deceptive and far-reaching than either could have imagined.

*May Contain Spoilers*

G.X. Chen takes two amateur detectives on a worldwide search for a murderer in her novel, The Mystery of Moutai. When a dear friend dies, Ann and Fang Chen suspect murder, but the motive is unknown. The pair gets the okay from the Boston PD to help with the investigation by traveling to China to dig up the past. Set in 1994, The Mystery of Moutai is a novel about how far someone would go to keep a secret. 

Ann Lee and Fang Chen are the main characters as they research the death of Shao Mei. Ann is a college student, preparing to begin her graduate studies. She's intelligent, prone to far-fetched conclusions, just enough of a skeptic, and sweet. Readers will enjoy her inventive and creative mind. Fang Chen is a professor to the core, always in a button down and loafers. He's level headed and chooses tea over coffee. Readers will appreciate his balanced perspective and need for facts. 

The novel begins with the death of Shao Mei, discovered by her son. Ann Lee and Fang Chen decide to aid the investigation and ensure that the son, John, is taken care of. As Ann Lee and Fang Chen begin to collect the correct pieces to the puzzle, their lives are suddenly in danger, urging them to solve the case before it's too late. The plot is well planned and moves at a steady pace. The writing is quite dry at times with a textbook quality. The facts are presented plainly and repeated often. I didn't have the chance to draw my own conclusions because the direction of the story was clearly spelled out. Kind of took the fun away from the mystery, but overall it was an enjoyable and quick read. 

Rating: 2.5/5 Cups

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