China Discovers the Mystery Novel

Okay, that’s not at all the most accurate headline, but just as Russia embraced detective fiction as if it was a brand new genre when Boris Akunin’s Erast Fandorin novels started selling in gigantic quantities there in the late 1990s, so too is China taking more confident steps towards molding the genre to its particular whims, according to the China Daily.

“Interest in mystery and detective stories has seen a sharp spike in

recent years. Besides the well-known Western classics, we want to

introduce more works from different parts of the world,” Julia

Chen, editor-in-chief of Feel Publishing Co Ltd, one of the leading

publishers of detective fiction, told the paper. Authors cited include Soji Shimada, who visited China for the first time last week to promote the new Chinese edition of his novel JACK THE RIPPER: ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE, Seich Matsumoto, Keigo Higashino and Hirotaka Adachi, for offering “a whole new reading experience” as opposed to crime fiction from the West.

So what does that mean for native-born Chinese who want to try their hand writing mysteries? Turns out it means a fair bit:

Wang Jiajun, a designer from Shanghai, released his first detective

novel Magic Murders last year. He was later nominated for the First

Soji Shimada Logic Mystery Award in Taiwan. He recalls that just a decade ago, detective stories were hardly

popular. “Even now, readers tend to buy detective novels by prominent

writers. Emerging Chinese writers need time so their stories become

more mature,” Wang says.

Computer science graduate Pu Pu (pen name) is another promising

talent. He has published two novels, with the one released this year,

titled Rules of Guilt (Zui Zhi Faze), already selling 20,000 copies.

“Detective novels are still new to Chinese readers. With more

masterpieces from abroad being introduced to the market, the number of

readers is increasing. This will certainly spur Chinese writers,” says


The only noirish novel from China I’ve read to date is Wang Shuo’s PLAYING FOR THRILLS, which was published 20 years ago and is in the vein of what Ryu Murakami was up to later on (in other words: dark and very very weird.) So I’d love to see more along those lines, but am also curious to see what sort of “school of mystery” develops in the next 5 to 10 years generally, too.