This is the second novel about Inspector Lu Fei, who works in a small town outside of Harbin, China. The charm of the first novel, Thief of Souls, were the inner workings of a small town Chinese police department and the lives of the officers, including and especially Lu Fei, who is an incredibly appealing character. In Wild Prey Lu Fei remains appealing, but the topic Klingborg has chosen to spotlight is far more difficult. The first novel was a serial killer story; this one focuses on the illegal (and immoral) killing of rare animals for food.
There are two authors whose work is so consistently excellent I don’t add them to my best of lists anymore, but I can tell you that William Kent Krueger’s prequel to his Cork O’Connor series, Lightning Strike, is beautifully written, felt and told; and Louise Penny’s The Madness of Crowds, a sly look at devotees of a flawed charismatic leader, is a beautiful read. Both writers have a quality of heart and spirit that give their books an extra something, and their main characters, Cork O’Connor and Armand Gamache, are beloved by readers. Soon to join these two are Elly Griffiths and Ann Cleeves, both of whom turned in stellar reads this year (see below). I invite readers to cast their reading nets a bit wider and consider some of these other fine titles. These are all books that stayed with me and left me thinking after I finished them.
Brian Klingborg’s new series features Inspector Lu Fei, and is set in northern China. Lu is a great new character and Klingborg’s book is a fast paced, intelligent police procedural with an interesting setting. It’s a terrific start to a new series. You can read my review of Thief of Souls here.
Q: First of all, I kept flipping to your author info as I couldn’t believe you weren’t Chinese. How do you come by your extensive knowledge of China?
A: I majored in East Asian Studies as an undergraduate, spent a year abroad in Taiwan, then attended grad school where I studied cultural anthropology with a China focus. After school I returned to Taiwan where I lived and worked for several more years. Since then, I have continued my sporadic exploration of Chinese culture, history and language. And in the process of writing Thief of Souls, I did lots and lots of additional research.
This is a really solid start to a new series, one that reminded me of Stuart Kaminsky’s classic Inspector Rostnikov series. This new series is set in China, rather than Russia, but many of the societal and economic restrictions are similar. Klingborg’s Inspector Lu Fei is as bemused and practical a thinker as Rostnikov. Lu Fei lives near Harbin, in northern China, but not in Harbin itself – he basically lives out in the sticks. He prefers the steadiness of country policing and doesn’t have a huge desire to move up the ranks.