The Murder of Mr. Ma by John Shen Yen Nee and S.J. RozanThe Murder of Mr. Ma by John Shen Yen Nee, S. J. Rozan
Narrator: Daniel York Loh
Published by Recorded Books on April 2, 2024
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Historical Mystery
Length: 8 hrs 24 mins
Pages: 312
Format: Audiobook
Purchase at or Audible
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For fans of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films, this stunning, swashbuckling series opener by a powerhouse duo of authors is at once comfortingly familiar and tantalizingly new.

Two unlikely allies race through the cobbled streets of 1920s London in search of a killer targeting Chinese immigrants.

London, 1924. When shy academic Lao She meets larger-than-life Judge Dee Ren Jie, his life abruptly turns from books and lectures to daring chases and narrow escapes. Dee has come to London to investigate the murder of a man he’d known during World War I when serving with the Chinese Labour Corps. No sooner has Dee interviewed the grieving widow than another dead body turns up. Then another. All stabbed to death with a butterfly sword. Will Dee and Lao be able to connect the threads of the murders—or are they next in line as victims?

John Shen Yen Nee and SJ Rozan’s groundbreaking collaboration blends traditional gong'an crime fiction and the most iconic aspects of the Sherlock Holmes canon. Dee and Lao encounter the aristocracy and the street-child telegraph, churchmen and thieves in this clever, cinematic mystery that’s as thrilling and visual as an action film, as imaginative and transporting as a timeless classic.

Lao She is an unassuming, respectable young scholar from China who has emigrated to London and now teaches Chinese language at Oxford and wants to write a novel. Then he is called to the home of philosopher Bertrand Russell who needs his assistance – in breaking a friend out of jail. It’s during this errand that Lao meets Judge Dee Ren Jie. I do have to say it’s an interesting meeting and sets the tone for the rest of the book. Judge Dee is in London to investigate the death of Mr. Ma, a fellow member of the Chinese Labor Corps who served in France during the First World War and was allowed to come to London afterward. Lao, who is more familiar with the city, offers to help Dee, but soon another Chinese man is found dead and the whole situation becomes more complicated.

Lao is our Watson to Dee’s Sherlock. I listened to the audiobook, which worked well. Most of the story is from Lao’s point of view and when he is not present or knocked out for scenes, he tells the reader directly. The narrator did a good job with all the accents, and I appreciated hearing the Chinese names and words.

The mystery itself was well done as was the setting. It was appropriately complicated and while I did guess part of the solution, there was a lot more going on. London in 1924 is not a friendly place for Chinese men.

I will say there is a lot of fighting in this book with descriptions of stances and hand positions and punches. Too much detail in my opinion. I assume it was to give the martial arts feel, but for me it distracted from the story.

About John Shen Yen Nee

John Shen Yen Nee is a half Chinese, half Scottish American media executive, producer and entrepreneur who was born in Knoxville, grew up in San Diego, and is now based in Los Angeles, with a penchant for very long run-on sentences. He has served as president of WildStorm Productions; senior vice president of DC Comics; publisher of Marvel Comics; CEO of Cryptozoic Entertainment; and cofounder of CCG Labs.

About S. J. Rozan

SJ Rozan, a native New Yorker, is the author of twenty novels and eight dozen short stories. Her work has won the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Nero, and Macavity awards for Best Novel and the Edgar for Best Short Story. She’s also the recipient of the Japanese Maltese Falcon Award and has received Life Achievement Awards from both the Private Eye Writers of America and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. BRONX NOIR, a short story anthology SJ edited, was chosen NAIBA “Notable Book of the Year.” She also co-edited, with Jonathan Santlofer, the anthology DARK END OF THE STREET, and the 2022 Mystery Writers of America anthology, CRIME HITS HOME.

SJ has served on the National Boards of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and is ex-President of the Private Eye Writers of America. In January 2003 SJ was an invited speaker at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The 2005 Left Coast Crime convention in El Paso, Texas made her its Guest of Honor and she was Toastmaster at Bouchercon 2009. She’s been a Master Artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Writer-in-Residence at Singapore Management University, and is a Senior Instructor and the Writing Retreat Mentor at the annual Bookcamp in Racine, WI. She speaks, lectures and teaches, and she runs a summer writing workshop at the Art Workshop International in Assisi, Italy. A former architect in a practice that focused on police stations, firehouses, and zoos, SJ Rozan lives in lower Manhattan.

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