Wednesday, May 30, 2012

'Tai Lake': Murder Most Ecological In China

From NPR:  'Tai Lake': Murder Most Ecological In China

It's always bad news when a detective books a vacation. Where other frolickers find fun in the sun, investigators are more likely to stumble over stiffs in the sand. The Orient Express was a train enthusiast's dream until Hercule Poirot — and Death — stepped aboard; in Dorothy Sayers' classic mystery, Busman's Honeymoon, Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane can't even enjoy a little nookie in their nuptial hideaway without bumping into an intrusive cadaver in the cellar. In detective fiction, Death never takes a holiday.
So, when Chief Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Department lucks into an all-expenses-paid getaway package, we veteran mystery readers anticipate that more snooping than snoozing will soon be on Chen's vacation itinerary. We are not disappointed.

Don't Cry, Tai Lake is the seventh novel in the politically charged Inspector Chen series written by Chinese expatriate and poet Qiu Xiaolong. Like his creator, Inspector Chen is, at heart, a poet who thinks deeply about things: In particular, Chen ruminates over the human costs of China's rush to transform itself into a superpower. The series explores the dark underside of both communism and capitalism. In past outings, Chen, a Communist Party loyalist, has been drawn into murky ethical dilemmas where upholding the law and the dicta of the party would pit him against intellectuals, social activists and other dissidents working for the common good. The dilemmas — and waters — literally get murkier in Don't Cry, Tai Lake, which delves into the ecological disasters perpetrated by China's ever burgeoning and loosely regulated manufacturing plants.

Chen unexpectedly lands in the lap of luxury when his "godfather," Comrade Secretary Zhao, makes him an offer he can't refuse: a coveted stay at a Communist Party retreat center on the shores of Tai Lake about an hour away from Shanghai. The luxurious resort is the domain of high-ranking cadres, and Chen, as usual, feels alienated from his surroundings. Venturing out beyond the gates, Chen discovers a workers' cafe where he orders some local beer and eels. A young woman sitting nearby, however, advises him to pass up the eels — as well as the local beer and the "stinking tofu" that he thought would be "a safe bet." Turns out the woman, whose name is Shanshan, studies the environmental problems caused by the industrial dumping.
Shanshan tells Chen that local water sources are contaminated, which means that even the beer isn't safe to drink. Apologizing for being "a wet blanket," she takes Chen on a tour of Tai Lake to show him the damage. Close up, the picturesque lake turns out to be a toxic nightmare: "An immense expanse of the water was covered in something like a heavy blackish-green shroud. It was substantial, almost solid, and stretched far in the distance." The grotesque algae blanket, she tells Chen, is caused by nitrogen and phosphorous emissions that are being dumped into freshwater lakes throughout China. Shanshan enlightens Chen about the extent of the horror:

"Paper mills, dyeing factories, chemical companies and whatnot. In the last 20 years or so, those plants have sprung up like bamboo shoots after the rain. Now they make up more than 40 percent of the city's total economic output. Relocating them is out of the question — there are too many of them. The local officials aren't eager to do anything about it."

The particular lake blob Chen surveys expands outward from the Wuxi No. 1 Chemical Co. When the director of that company is found murdered in his apartment, which doubles as a romantic hideaway, Shanshan and a fellow ecological warrior are obvious suspects. Since Chen is deeply smitten with Shanshan, he surreptitiously begins working — on his vacation! — to find the killers.

The Inspector Chen series may be set in contemporary China, but it owes a lot to the tradition of the good old American Western (one of the literary influences on detective fiction, in general). Chen is a lone man of integrity on a wild and wooly frontier, one where the rules are tough to enforce and the weak are in danger of being trampled under the stampede of outlaw capitalists. Like Marshall Dillon, Chen manages to temporarily clean up his small stretch of the Main Street of Dodge (or Wuxi or Shanghai) but, as this latest adventure vividly underscores, the job is ultimately too big for one detective — with only his books and his poetry to protect him — to carry out alone.


Dorothy Sayers Society

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back to our regularly scheduled blogging

Visiting relative  has left, traveling has done, and I'm ready to devote myself to this blog again.

So thanks for  your patience!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Blogger did a redesign a few months ago, now their "Schedule" function is a hit and miss affair.

Had meant to say a couple of days ago that I'd resume normal posting Saturday - I"m chauffering two elderly relatives around a RAINY Keystone, South Dakota.

Thanks for your patience!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Back to normal Sunday

Tomorrow - I hope and pray to all the gods and in particular Om - that the guy who has been doing my sheet rock one ceiling hole every Saturday, will come here tomorrow (having missed last Saturday) finish sheet rocking the final of four holes, then adding the tape and the "mud" and the textured paint. I'm fed up with the delay - he was supposed to do it last year, for God's sake! Many reasons why I let him get away with the delay, but I want it done tomorrow becausew all my furniture and books are topsy turvy and I'm in a state where I can't accomplish anything.

He's promised to be here early tomorrow - I'll believe it when I see it. But I hope it's true.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Mitchells & Butlers plc : New Nicholson's pub toasts exclusive ale launch

From : Mitchells & Butlers plc : New Nicholson's pub toasts exclusive ale launch
Nicholson's is proud to open its latest pub, The White Swan, right in the heart of London in Covent Garden on 4 May.

On the site of the former brewery of famous London banking firm Hoare & Co., and as the setting for Dorothy L. Sayers's Lord Peter Whimsey detective novel Murder Must Adverstise, The White Swan and the surrounding area have a history that's firmly rooted in food and drink, hospitality and intrigue.

Since the Nicholson brothers opened their very first pub back in 1873, the Nicholson's name has been synonymous with heritage and hospitality. From that first nineteenth century pub right up to The White Swan in Covent Garden, Nicholson's offers classic, delicious food, an unrivalled selection of cask ales and the warmest, most welcoming service and pub atmosphere.

The White Swan celebrates its opening by hosting the launch of Nicholson's first branded beer - Nicholson's Pale Ale.

Ben Lockwood, assistant brand manager, at Nicholson's comments: Nicholson's pubs want to be able to offer our guests the ultimate cask ale experience by stocking the very best range of real ale favourites and new-to-market brews.

We were keen to provide an exciting new product that would appeal to the growing number of cask ale drinkers in Nicholson's pubs, so we invited partner breweries to create a bespoke ale for the brand.

Ben continues: St Austell Brewery demonstrated clear passion for quality which resulted in a delicious high standard beer that the team at the White Swan and all our Nicholson's pubs can be proud to serve.

Working in collaboration with award-winning brewer St. Austell Brewery, Nicholson's Pale Ale will be available exclusively across all 80 Nicholson's locations nationwide. The new ale, a classic cask conditioned English Pale Ale (4% ABV), represents both companies' passion and drive in delivering quality ale which can be enjoyed in the typical British pub atmosphere that Nicholson's offers.

Roger Ryman, Brewing Director of St Austell Brewery added: As a brewer it's always a pleasure to innovate and create new brews. Nicholson's Pale Ale is a refreshing and easy to drink ale made with Cornish barley that we hope will generate a strong fan base among Nicholson's customers. Nicholson's pubs are helping drive the demand for innovative, quality cask ale brews, something that's very close to our hearts at St Austell, matched with our historic brewing roots