Author: Brian Klingborg
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Reviewed By: Melissa Minners
I love reading books set in different locales, so when I was offered an opportunity to review Thief of Souls, I found myself quite interested. Not only did it have a pretty cool title, but it was a murder mystery set in China, centering on a rural town cop and his determination to solve it. I have a bit of perspective on how crime is handled by law enforcement in America, but it would be very interesting to read how law enforcement handles these things in China. I couldn’t wait to read this book, and once I got started, I couldn’t put it down.
Thief of Souls centers around Inspector Lu Fei, once a cop in the big city of Harbin and now an Inspector in Raven Valley, a small backwater village where nothing big ever happens. That is, until now – Lu Fei has been called to the crime scene of a murder. At first look, the murder appears to be a routine strangulation coupled with a possible rape. But as CID soon discovers, there is nothing ordinary about this murder.
Very similar to America’s CSI, CID collects evidence and runs an autopsy. They soon discover that the murder at hand was ritualistic – her organs were removed and joss paper has been stuffed in her mouth to clear her passage to the other world. Their first suspect is a local butcher, but though the man was infatuated with this victim, Lu doesn’t feel he is intelligent to have committed this crime. That coupled with the fact that his young victim seemed to be living well beyond her means in the city of Harbin (she was only in Raven Village to observe the passing of her mother), leaves Lu wondering if money may not have more to do with this murder.
Though he feels stymied at every turn, Lu keeps digging until he discovers that his victim is not the only one to have been killed in this ritualistic fashion. The closer Lu gets to finding this serial killer, the closer to danger he finds himself…and this mysterious killer is closer to Lu Fei than he can imagine!
As soon as I began reading Thief of Souls, I found myself firmly entrenched in Brian Klingborg’s descriptive and captivating writing. Lu Fei is one of those characters that you can’t help but enjoy – he’s flawed, but the flaws make him human; he cares deeply for those he feels worthy, but can’t seem to express his feelings, a relatable trait for many; and he is a bit of a rebel, something we all seem to love when reading crime stories. The murder itself is quite intriguing as it gives the reader insight into the customs of The People’s Republic of China, as well as insight into how investigations and arrests are conducted in that country.
There wasn’t an incredible amount of action – this was more of a cerebral experience than a car chasing, explosion of an action drama – but the action that was there added to the intensity of the novel. There was an edge-of-your-seat intensity to this book. The reader becomes so invested that they can’t put the book down until they know who the murderer is. Once the murderer is revealed, it is actually quite the plot twist. I truly enjoyed this read and I hope that Brian Klingborg decides to continue writing more Lu Fei mysteries. This is one character that I would love to see again!