The title “Inspector Zhang” caught my eye because of the word “Inspector.” I immediately thought of Inspector Morse and Inspector Lewis that I have watched for years on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) television. I was so sad when John Thaw passed away and Inspector Morse came to an end and was truly happy to see Endeavor, young Inspector Morse make an appearance on PBS here in the United States.
Now here is Inspector Zhang, not on PBS, but in an e-book who is a combination of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and all the other sleuths over time. In a none other than a “locked room mystery.”
Zhang and Lee, members of the Singapore Police Force, arrive at a five star hotel to investigate the death of Peter Wilkinson, an American who was in route to his plastic factories in China. Observation of Wilkinson show one wound under the chin that probably ruptured a vein and Wilkinson bled to death in a minute or two. It was obvious theft was not the motive as Wilkinson’s wallet had “a thick wad of notes and half a dozen credit cards, all gold or platinum.”
After an initial interview with the staff on duty, Zhang deducts that there was a very narrow window of time where Wilkinson could have been killed.
Inspector Zhang becomes excited because this is his first “locked room mystery.” A mystery he tells Lee he has waited for “My whole life.”
After wishing for a deerstalker hat and a pipe (trademarks of Sherlock Holmes) and stating the mystery would not be solved by science but instead by using “ze little grey cells” (a saying of Hercule Poirot), Zhang explains John Dickson Carr’s seven explanations that lead to a locked room murder.
I am not going to go into detail of the seven explanations, instead I will say that even after I read the explanations, I did not figure out the identity of the murderer – this is unusual for me as I usually figure out “who did it” about three-fourths of the way through the book or story.
Stephen Leather’s Inspector Zhang stumped me. The only other “who done it” that boggled my mind was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Speckled Band. If I get bamboozled then I find the work an extraordinary story.
Leather’s description of Inspector Zhang and Detective Sergeant Lee is very vivid. While reading the story I could not help but picture Jackie Chan as Inspector Zhang and Lucy Liu as Detective Sergeant Lee.
Leather’s has written several other Inspector Zhang locked room mysteries:
Inspector Zhang and the Falling Woman
Inspector Zhang and the Dead Thai Gangster
Inspector Zhang and the Disappearing Drugs
Who knows, once Lucy Liu gets tired of playing the part as Joan Watson in Elementary, she might become convinced in playing the part, Detective Sergeant Lee in the Inspector Zhang series. That is, of course, if Inspector Zhang would become a television series.
Read more about Stephen Leather here.
**Note – I received no payment for this book review.**