Friday, September 7, 2018

Review: "Death Notice" by Zhou Haohui

It might be because it has been quite a while since I have read an honest to goodness, break neck nail you to the wall type thriller, but it is hard for me to conjure a better time reading experience this year than the one I had reading Chinese thriller writer Zhou Haohui’s debut English language novel Death Notice. Since I have slowed down my reading load, cutting it in half really earlier this year, I’ve approached the act with a keener eye, noticing subtext more often, finding hidden meanings and playing around with the themes in venues like this. With this book, I didn’t have to do anything like that. To quite Stephen King in his praise for Justin Cronin’s The Passage, I was lifted up on the wings of story and let the real world disappear. I wasn’t searching for what this book really meant. I was just enjoying it; it’s little tricks, its scheming plot and its vast array of engaging characters. This is the kind of book that will appeal to fans of Jo Nesbo and Steig Larsson as well as other international crime writers. The book and its author does for China what those authors and books did for there respective countries, which is present a thrilling and familiar plot elements in an unfamiliar setting with enough local flair and customs to create a unique kind of tension. Set in the year 2002, a few years removed from astronomical advancements in technology in Chengdu, China it opens with police officer on a few routine visits who, in the very next section, is found murdered in his apartment. This crime drudges up more than few closeted skeletons, the most prominent and the one that really connects them all, is the cyber vigilante Eumenides, who boldly announces the deaths of his intended targets before killing them, most of whom have committed crimes they can’t be charged for or crimes they got off light for committing. It sounds like a well worn narrative device (and it is), but the scenes of tension, about four or five in total are so well executed and relayed in such a smooth way that it makes for an almost unbearable reading experience (in a good way). There are scenes set in a mine, outside an office building and one taking place in a restaurant where one person holds another person and unveils their master plan that are chilling in how helpless the characters are and how helpless you feel as a reader.  There are really no central characters, with the points of view being split, but by the end the character we identify with most of Pei Tao, whose sad story ties him directly with the disturbing crimes and is, as typical of characters like him, much smarter then he lets on. The ending, taking place in a crowded airport, where something that happens that is brilliantly executed and something impossible is pulled of in a way that is not so cheap or cheating, beautifully wraps up this intense 300 page book and has me begging for its sequel to come out sooner rather than later. This is the perfect kind of thriller you didn’t know you needed so bad until you pick it up. 
Rating: 5/5

No comments:

Post a Comment