Saturday, April 26, 2014

The Mystery of Moutai by G. X. Chen - Cozy Mystery Provides Short Trip to China and Murder, Of Course...

His voice echoed as he called out, "Mom, I'm home! Where are you?" ...He walked over and stood in front of the battered coffee table, looking down at the exquisitely designed liquor bottle, which seemed empty. Then, he noticed something bulky stuck between the sofa and the coffee table. It was his mother, face-down on the floor. On her partially hidden, painfully distorted  face, blood trickled from her nose and her mouth. His legs started trembling violently. John screamed, but no sound came from his mouth. It was seemingly a long time before he was able to control his limbs. He ran to the kitchen, picked up the phone, and dialed 911...The rest of the day was a blur. Police officers and detectives came and went, along with a team of forensic specialists and an ambulance. Everything in the apartment and around the body was checked, including a fancy gift box and the empty bottle of Moutai. The forensic officers used protective gloves, putting all the items, one at a time, carefully into separate evidence bags.


The Mystery of Moutai


By G. X. Chen

No, Jackie Chan has nothing to do with the story, other than apparently being one of millions who love Moutai. According to the author, men in China prefer a much strong liquor so wines from other countries do not sell well there... A gift of Moutai is so precious, that everybody will immediately accept a drink...not knowing, because of its strength, that it could have been laced...and the drinker soon dead...
Friday, April 24
Another warm night: the breeze coming from
the open windows makes me feel it's an early
summer rather than spring day.
It has been a thrill to know that I will soon
meet my old friend who suffered much at the
hands of the Red Guards during the Cultural
Revolution. I'm extremely excited about the
opportunity to renew our friendship. I
don't have many old friends anymore, having
lost all the contacts when I moved. I
particularly crave the comradeship we forged
during the formidable years when we were
both young...
~~~

The two amateur mystery solvers, Ann Lee and Fang Chen were friends of Shao Mei. All were living in Boston but were called because John had found his mother dead and the police asked for somebody to come be with him. Although they were called aunt and uncle, by custom, they were not related. Ann, though, was much like his mother and was a welcome support to John. He and his mother had come to America so that he could attend school; his father had stayed in China. John loved his new life, but would be returning to live with his father. Until then, it was agreed that he would stay with Fang Chen who had more space than Ann... 

Both friends, however, had only one thing they wanted--to find the individual who had killed Shao Mei. Actually, they made a good team, throwing out ideas to each other and then going over the options. At first, this goes very slow, so that the readers may feel the need for moving faster, but once readers are also into the story and the many events occur, I think you will become as involved as I did in solving the mystery. In cozies, there are sometimes not as many potential individuals to consider, but this is counter-balanced well with the fact that there are insufficient police officers who can assist in the murder due to language differences... 

Paul Winderman was the officer in charge of the case, but it was sitting on his desk, already becoming cold...there was no evidence, nothing found at the scene of the crime except the wine bottle and traces of the poison. The glasses had been washed, the place wiped down. Besides nobody could figure out the motive... Thus he happily accepted Ann and Fang's involvement since they had helped him before...

John's father had been trying to get approval for him to come to get his son but was having problems. Readers will learn much about living in China and the restrictions placed on nearly everybody. The Cultural Revolution was mentioned so often, that I've included a short narrative about it for readers who would like to learn more.

An interesting method for readers to learn and try to solved the mystery was the inclusion of a diary written by, perhaps, the guilty individual. But don't think it will help you immediately solve the case...a diary is merely the thoughts of an individual, at a given time, so you really have to consider what may be of use out of everything written...



When Ann and Fang talked about John's father having trouble with getting clearance to travel, they decided to go and take John home. They could also visit and enjoy a needed vacation, plus try to discover more about what Shao Mei might have been involved with to cause her murder...
Of course, the Great Wall was part of their tourist activities, but so was Wangfujing...where among all the other shops, they needed to visit one particular shop and talk to the owner...



The day after, that shop owner was killed...

The same method was used, the bottle of Moutai left behind...

Ann and Fang had seen the blood flowing from the five head openings and remembered that the result of poison was the same in both victims.
 At a point, Ann and Fang realized that they themselves must have provided information to the killer--How else would they have known that they would be visiting that shop?!!!

Fortunately, they were able to ask Paul, back in the U.S. to conduct background checks of those involved...

But that didn't stop them from being pursued. They had
noticed an old black car that they had both known to have once been used by the Red Guard... And when they almost got hit by that car, only being saved by a quick acting street vendor, they began to realize they must be on the right track, even though they didn't yet know it!

Shao Mei had been a physics professor in Beijing but had to accept a mailroom clerk job at an insurance company when she came to America. Still, she was able to have her son in school where he was excelling...

But as discussions occurred--such as perhaps she had some secret treasure she had brought from home, which was Fang's favorite choice, it was pointed out that she surely would not have become a mail clerk if she had something valuable!

It was interesting that they really didn't begin to have the whole story until they had returned to Boston! The setting moved into the academic area, where Shao Mei had once been. We learn that she had been taken as a prisoner of the Red Guard, along with many others there in China...


Action begins to move faster, even though within the college and soon the killer knows that her followers have returned home...

But they cannot be permitted to live!

Loved the ending! Ann Lee and Fang Chen are an excellent pair of mystery solvers and I hope th author will continue further mysteries with these two!

Highly recommended...


GABixlerReviews

Enjoy more of the amazing Mall!
The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, commonly known as the Cultural Revolution, was a social-political movement that took place in the People's Republic of China from 1966. Set into motion by Mao Zedong, then Chairman of the Communist Party of China, its stated goal was to enforce communism in the country by removing capitalisttraditional and cultural elements from Chinese society, and to impose Maoist orthodoxy within the Party. The Revolution marked the return of Mao Zedong to a position of power after the failed Great Leap Forward. The movement paralyzed China politically and significantly affected the country economically and socially.
The Revolution was launched in May 1966. Mao alleged that bourgeois elements were infiltrating the government and society at large, aiming to restore capitalism. He insisted that these "revisionists" be removed through violent class struggle. China's youth responded to Mao's appeal by forming Red Guard groups around the country. The movement spread into the military, urban workers, and the Communist Party leadership itself. It resulted in widespread factional struggles in all walks of life. In the top leadership, it led to a mass purge of senior officials who were accused of taking a "capitalist road", most notably Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping. During the same period Mao's personality cult grew to immense proportions.
Millions of people were persecuted in the violent factional struggles that ensued across the country, and suffered a wide range of abuses including public humiliation, arbitrary imprisonment, torture, sustained harassment, and seizure of property. A large segment of the population was forcibly displaced, most notably the transfer of urban youth to rural regions during the Down to the Countryside Movement. Historical relics and artifacts were destroyed. Cultural and religious sites were ransacked.
Mao officially declared the Cultural Revolution to have ended in 1969, but its active phase lasted until the death of the military leader Lin Biao in 1971. After Mao's death and the arrest of the Gang of Four in 1976, reformers led by Deng Xiaoping ended the Maoist reforms associated with the Cultural Revolution. In June 1981, the Central Committee announced the official verdict: "The 'cultural revolution', which lasted from May 1966 to October 1976, was responsible for the most severe setback and the heaviest losses suffered by the Party, the state, and the people since the founding of the People's Republic." 

G.X. Chen is a freelancer who lives in Boston (both of her mystery novels are based in Boston). She permanently moved from China to the US after Tiananmen Massacre in 1989. G.X. Chen’s previously published books include The Mystery of Revenge (a mystery novel) and Forget Me Not: A Love Story of the East (a historic fiction/romance) and several other novels in Chinese. To learn more, go to http://gxchen.tateauthor.com/