Cover Image: City of Ice

City of Ice

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Member Reviews

The novel is set in the small town of Raven Valley, in China. 

Inspector Lu Fei is our main protagonist. He use to work in Harbin Public Security Bureau but now finds himself working in the remote Raven Valley after incident with a corrupt superior. He is now the Deputy Chief of the local Public Security Bureau station in Raven Valley. Not much crime happens in Raven Valley until a young women is found murdered with her heart, liver and lungs removed. Lu Fei sets out to investigate her murdered until Superintendent Song, the deputy director of the Criminal Investigation Bureau is sent to take over. Lu Fei won't be pushed aside though.  Evidence starts to connect the case to unsolved murders and Lu Fei must decided whether it is worth the risk to find justice. 

I enjoyed City of Ice.

Lu Fei is an smart and interesting protagonist. It will go up against what he thinks is morally right and doesn't give up easily. He also is quite the romantic on the side. 

The author gives us an atmospheric feel of the icy surroundings the characters find themselves in the Raven Valley. We also see the lives in remote rural Raven Valley and sometimes harsh weather they find themselves in. 

The actually case in the book is gruesome and not for the faint hearted. There are few twists in the book and plenty of suspects. 

My first book from  Brian Klingborg and will defintely be looking out for his future books. 

I received a ARC from Netgalley and Headline for an objection review.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy of this book. I enjoyed the setting and stepping into a world of characters that were new and a setting that was unfamiliar. Despite this it was a classic whodunnit with a sprinkling of police corruption and a smattering of romance.
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City of Ice is the first instalment in the Inspector Lu Fei Mysteries series, in which the brutal murder of a young woman in a rural village in Northern China sends shockwaves all the way to Beijing but seemingly only Inspector Lu Fei, living in exile in the small town, is interested in justice for the victim. Lu Fei is a graduate of China's top police university but has been transferred from Harbin City PD due to a confrontation with a corrupt superior and has stepped into the role of deputy chief of police in the sleepy backwater town of Raven Valley Township, in Heilongjiang Province, close to the North Korean border; the type of place where almost nothing happens and the theft of a few chickens represents a major crime wave. Lu is spending the night drinking himself into a stupor with his usual tipple - Shaoxing wine - at the Red Lotus Bar knowing he has little in the way of work. That is until a young woman is found dead, her organs removed, and joss paper stuffed in her mouth and Lu is called in to investigate. It's safe to say both he and the rest of the sleepy community were given a very rude awakening. The victim is 23-year-old Yang Fenfang who worked as a barmaid in a Harbin bar and had been residing with her dying mother when her body was found in her mother’s house “hollowed out like a birchbark canoe.” The corpse has noticeable ligature marks on the wrists and around the neck. 

After looking around Lu finds no blood or signs a struggle had ensued so he calls in the forensic team from CID in Beijing led by Deputy Director Song, a rising political star, who is on the case but in an increasingly authoritarian China, prosperity and political stability are far more important than solving the murder of an insignificant village girl. As such, the CID head is interested in pinning the crime on the first available suspect rather than wading into uncomfortable truths, leaving Lu Fei on his own. Shortly after the brutal slaying, a suspect is identified; Ex-boyfriend Zhang Zhaoxing went to high school with Fenfang and appeared to still be besotted with her. A simple-minded butcher of pigs at the local meat processing plant, Zhang flees from the police and despite having no history of violence, Lu is under intense pressure from government bureaucracy to arrest and charge Zhang regardless of whether he's innocent or not but Lu believes he wasn't the perpetrator and there is no forensic evidence to the contrary. As Lu digs deeper into the gruesome murder, he finds himself facing old enemies and creating new ones in the form of local Communist Party bosses, the Public Security Bureau and corrupt business interests. Despite these rising obstacles, Lu remains determined to find the real killer, especially after he links the murder to other unsolved homicides with similar modus operandi.

But the closer he gets to the heart of the mystery, the more he puts himself and his loved ones in danger. This is a riveting, enthralling and richly cultured police procedural, and Klingborg's years studying China as well as residing there inform the narrative with each chapter beginning with an intriguing quote from Chairman Mao Zedong, regarding communism and its development and whose influence is still felt throughout the country. Infused with tidbits from Confucius, Mao Tse-tung and other Chinese philosophical luminaries, City of Ice brings to life the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens and the trials and tribulations of the quotidian. The local politics, criminal justice, the steps taken in an investigation, and the pervasive influence of the Chinese Communist Party, are true to life and the way this information is seamlessly woven into the narrative is not at all disruptive yet it certainly could be if written by a less adept writer. It is an immersive and masterful tour de force with twists and surprises aplenty, a serial killer on the loose, a large suspect pool and the interspersing of politics, history and philosophy throughout its pages. Protagonist Lu is a fascinating character who is quite the maverick and contrarian and is not at all scared to disagree with the ’big boys’ when it comes to moral or ethical considerations.
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An unexpected gem. I hadn’t  heard of this book or author when I requested it so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  .  Set in China the book follows Inspector Lu - a police detective in Northern China investigating the murder of a young girl.  The plot is well written and convincing.  The  dialogue between Inspector Lu and his colleagues is, at times, hilarious.  Not the sort of of book I would normally read, but thoroughly enjoyable nevertheless.
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Inspector Lu Fei has been sent to work in the remote Raven Valley Township, in a part of China where the weather is often brutal, and crime, such as it is, usually consists of a few escaped chickens or an elderly lady complaining she cannot connect to the internet.  Still, there are compensations, such as the Red Lotus Bar and the attractive widow, Yanyan, who runs it.  When a murder case does arrive, it is quickly taken out of Lu’s hands, with the arrival of Superintendent Song, the deputy director of the Criminal Investigation Bureau.   However, Lu does his best to tag along with the investigation into the murder of Yang Fenfang – a beautiful young woman, who is found in her mother’s house, minus her major organs…

The author paints a really interesting picture of China, a country which I must admit I know fairly little about.  I enjoyed learning about Chinese society, even if some of the facts are dropped into the story quite bluntly.  I did appreciate the author explaining things though and – to be fair – I may have been looking up various titles and places, had he not briefly halted and given a comparable rank for a politician or police officer, so I could keep track of characters and their importance.  I also found the information on Chinese funerals and view of the afterlife fascinating.

Ultimately, what makes any novel work are the characters and I really invested in Inspector Lu Fei, who, like so many fictional detectives, had made enemies – in Lu’s case, from the nearby city of Harbin, which had led to his removal to Raven Valley.   I liked Sergeant First Class Bing, Chief Liang and the way Lu Fei battled bureaucracy and injustice.  I would very much like to meet the characters again – if there is another in the sequel then I would definitely read it, which means that this is definitely a recommendation.   I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Headline for an advance copy of City of Ice,  a police procedural set in Raven Valley Township, a small town in the northern Chinese province of Heilongjiang, featuring Inspector Lu Fei.

When the body of Yang Fenfang is found brutally mutilated and murdered in her home Inspector Lu calls Beijing for help. With the help of Superintendent Song, deputy director of the Criminal Investigation Bureau, he discovers past murders with links to this crime and realises he is hunting a serial killer.

I thoroughly enjoyed City of Ice, which is as much an introduction to modern day rural China as it is engrossing mystery. It is mostly told from Lu’s point of view, but the unnamed killer makes the occasional appearance, taking part in rituals which seem unfathomable to my western eyes. This is a good move as it introduces the reader gradually to a motive that is quintessentially Chinese and would probably be perceived as unbelievable in a Western setting. That’s not to say that the perpetrator isn’t delusional, it’s just that his reasoning seems to reflect the setting.

I found the plot absorbing. I like a police procedural and this ticks all the boxes, baffling crime, personal frictions, politics and a detective determined to get to the truth. I enjoy the logic involved in narrowing the field of suspects from everyone to one person via various blind alleys and false starts and the arguments over suspects and motives, again this novel has it all. I wasn’t so keen on all the poetry and Confucian sayings as the allegorical means little to me, but I did like the sayings of Chairman Mao that introduce each chapter as they offer a neat touch of irony.

Inspector Lu is a fairly typical fictional detective with his desire for the truth and skirmishes with authority, because, of course, he knows best. He’s smart and motivated but contradictory, because he has an interest in Confucius and Chinese literature and yet can more than hold his own in a fight.

City of Ice is a good read that I have no hesitation in recommending.
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A very unique and entertaining thriller. A bit gory as it is about a woman whose organs have been seemingly harvested from her body. I felt I learned something from this book as well given that it is about the Chinese police force and in a rural village too. The icy weather makes it all the more threatening. Recommended.
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Brian Klingborg's novel is set in a remote part of China, the small town of Raven Valley, close to the nearby Harbin City, the eponymous City of Ice, named after its long and freezing winters. Inspector Lu Fei is the Deputy Chief of the local Public Security Bureau station, a police station with its small group of officers under the leadership of Chief Liang. To his surprise, he finds himself at the scene of a murder of a young local woman, 23 year old Yang Fenfang, working at Harbin, but home because her ill mother had recently died. Yang has been brutally killed with 'hell money' left in her mouth, and her heart, lungs and liver have been expertly removed, could she possibly have been killed to harvest her organs? A local man with learning difficulties who had gone to school with the victim is arrested, despite there being little evidence of his guilt.

Lu Fei is a single man in his thirties, looking for true love, with his eye on a beautiful widow who runs the Red Lotus bar, he has spent many years working in Harbin, but left after conflict over the levels of corruption, exiled but is more than happy to be in Raven Valley. He is an anomaly in the Chinese bureaucracies that are famed for their endemic corruption, an accepted fact of life in the country, he is a principled man who is determined to get to the truth of who murdered Yang. When the CIB comes to take over the inquiry in the form of the ambitious CIB Deputy Director Song, there is initially friction between Fei and Song, although through time the two men come to respect each other, particularly after they both find themselves facing life threatening situations. Fei has to face old enemies in Harbin, as he hunts for a killer, unearthing the murders of other victims killed with a similar MO, his career at stake as politically important suspects attempt to derail his investigation.

Klingborg intersperses the narrative with numerous quotes from influential figures in Chinese history, poetry, philosophers and religion. He details in some depth the political and police administrations, the political structures, history, traditions, rituals and culture, all of which provide a valuable insight into a China that retains its air of mystery in our modern contemporary world. My only concern was that occasionally these nuggets of information are inserted clumsily and to the detriment of fluid storytelling. This in no way detracts from what is an entertaining and engaging crime read that easily held my attention and which I very much enjoyed and I would recommend it to other crime and mystery readers. Many thanks to Headline for an ARC.
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So so so so good. This one will undoubtedly be in my top ten thrillers of 2021. Are you fascinated by Chinese life, police procedure, superstitions and how ancient rituals and routines impact on daily Chinese life? I discovered i was and this has left me wanting more.  When a woman body is discovered with her heart lungs and and liver missing, local Inspector Lu Fei must oversee the investigation with outside unwanted help while carefully navigating his way around local corruption, CCP dominance and a disinterested local police force. Fei pedantically, painstakingly follows his leads and discovers that this isn't the killers first murder. A beautiful, powerful, fascinating and extremely satisfying read.
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