Friday, October 19, 2007

Books for the 2008 Olympic Games

Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom, Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine and author, most recently, of China's Brave New World — And Other Tales for Global Times, has an interesting article in Outlook India about preparing for the forthcoming Beijing Games ... with a reading program.

One mystery novel to make Wasserstrom's reading program:
[M]y favored in-flight books tend to be mysteries, so I’m recommending [Catherine] Sampson’s The Pool of Unease (Macmillan, 2007) — and slipping it in here to also nicely bring the total number of books up to an even dozen. Some readers may feel that, at a few points, loose ends either get tied up a bit too quickly or are left dangling too long, but the writing is lively throughout, the characters memorable, and Sampson has created a storyline that allows her to deal with several important issues — and deal with them deftly.

While never forgetting the goal of entertaining her readers, for example, she gives them a valuable sense of the complicated nature of police corruption in the PRC, the tensions caused by the growing divide between those being raised swiftly and those being left behind by China’s economic boom, and the ethical dilemmas faced by foreign reporters who are protected in ways that their sources are not in a one-party state. And the book’s main narrative device — alternating between first-person chapters by British reporter Robyn Ballantyne, heroine of two previous crime novels, and third-person chapters that focus on a Chinese private eye, whom readers may hope shows up in future mysteries in the series—works wonderfully. There are evocative descriptions of both gritty parts of Beijing that most tourists won’t see and Chinese luxury hotels and villas, which can seem surreal located as they are in what is in many ways still a developing country. A final plus — or minus — is that, for those about to be jet-lagged, the book conveys all too well the difficulty that the heroine has adjusting to the time change during her first trip to China.
Read Wasserstrom's article.

The Page 69 Test: China's Brave New World.

--Marshal Zeringue