The Firemaker – Peter May

This is a crime story set in modern China.

Forensic pathologist Margaret Campbell has run away from her problems in Chicago, to work at the university in Beijing. Unfortunately, she hasn’t properly read the cultural briefing, and her early experiences of the place and the people do not do much for her or her hosts…

Detective Li Yan, single and newly up for promotion, is the love interest and the key policeman. He has to deal with the case of a burned corpse – which just happens to be Ms Campbell’s speciality – and two other killings that appear to be linked.

The biggest character in the book is China, and the author does a good job of sympathetically painting a believable portrait of the place. And the plot – which should hold no surprises for anyone with a double digit reading age – works well in keeping the action going, and the background relevant.

Unfortunately, I found the writing achingly awful in too many places. There’s way too much breaking of the show, don’t tell motto, and the twin lead characters come across as one dimensional. I neither connected with the characters, nor cared for their welfare; a bad, bad, sign.

In summary: a good idea, with a good backdrop, and not much else. I won’t be reading the rest of the trilogy.

Score: 5.5/10