As a speaker of Mandarin, Martin Long has been visiting China regularly for fifteen years, from major cities to remote rural settings, in search of authentic material for his novels. With dual British-French nationality, he is intrigued by the challenge and richness of cultural differences. After a career as the head of a higher-education language department in Paris, Martin Long now writes full-time. In addition to his Chinese crime novels, he has produced a book for children, a stand-alone novel about Paris and collections of short stories.
Keeping up with the fast pace of change in China today, he is continuing the Tian Haifeng (“Dragon Eye”) crime series and exploring new regions of the country.
The Dragon Eye series
Following his wife’s death, Public Security Bureau officer Tian Haifeng is transferred to his home town of Nanjing as CID Senior Inspector. Living with his sister and teenage son, he has made his mark on his old patch, gaining the trust of Divisional Head Hu Tang and working closely with junior officer Jin Yun.
Haifeng sticks out in a crowd with his burnished skin and face of a mountain peasant – certainly not the face of his deceased Han mother or drunkard Han father, and with each case he works on, he is unconsciously seeking his own origins. For him, an unsolved murder is an unread story and a betrayal of the victim.
As a detective, Haifeng is not the classic hard-nosed loner. Though he doesn’t suffer fools, he is a man who understands the underdog and the downtrodden, and fights for them. He has to navigate the political minefields of his job, raise a teenage son, and handle his own love life. China is changing, and so must Haifeng.
This originality of this series is in its blend of crime fiction with the discovery of local culture in widely diverse regions of China: Xinjiang in the remote north-west, Yunnan in the foothills of Tibetan plateau, the capital Beijing, the “renegade” island of Taiwan, and the north-east province of Shandong, for the first five in the series.
The investigations take the reader off the beaten path, avoiding, on the whole, over-familiar Chinese issues such as pollution, politics and freedom. Instead, they are woven from myriad of every-day incidents of a uniquely local colour – elements and leads that Tian Haifeng discovers and follows in each case.
The series to-date include the following novels: The Fathers of Xinjiang, The Mothers of Yunnan, The Sisters of Beijing, The Cousins of Taiwan, The Dragons of Shandong.
Although the series develops chronologically each book can be read as a stand-alone crime novel. The French publisher of Martin Long, In Octavo, has started the series with The Sisters of Beijing (“Les Soeurs de Pékin”).
Book 1, The Fathers of Xinjiang
Senior inspector Tian Haifeng of the Nanjing Public Security Bureau has seen more murder victims than he can remember, yet the ancient remains of a woman dug out from a peat bog astound and haunt him. The body is destroyed and an archaeology student is murdered. Defying orders to halt the investigation, Haifeng makes the case his own. He follows a trail across China from the banks of the Yangtze River in Nanjing to the Taklamakan Desert, and across time from contemporary China to the ancient origins of Xinjiang. Arriving in the wild frontier province with tensions running high between Uighur Muslims and Chinese security forces (still very much a current issue), Haifeng realises he has unearthed much more than a simple corpse.
Xinjiang too has its own ancient corpses – sun-dried Caucasian mummies attesting to the presence of Caucasian colonisation of the region long before the Chinese arrived. In the war of propaganda against separatism, the politically sensitive mummies are an unacceptable embarrassment for the Chinese government. Archaeology has become a new battle ground.
In Xinjiang, and aided by Mai Jing, the friend of a local archaeology professor, Haifeng picks up the trace of the Nanjing murderer – a government security officer – at a secret archaeological site. The fabricated excavation and its fake finds will change Chinese history forever and put an end to separatism – the unearthing of the so-called Fathers of Xinjiang will settle Beijing’s claim on the region. Uncovering the plot, both Mai Jing’s and the professor’s lives are in danger.
Haifeng knows the case is way above the head of a simple senior inspector, but has no choice. The truth was destroyed once in Nanjing and he refuses to let it happen twice.
The Fathers of Xinjiang is both a crime novel and a unique voyage of discovery. It is the first of a series of five crime investigations, each featuring Tian Haifeng.
Rights available: World English and translation, except French (In Octavo Editions).
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