Chengdu, Sichuan Province, People’s Republic of China – a city beset by mid-summer heat, rainstorms, and murder.
Prosecutor Xu Ya of the People’s Procuratorate is summoned in the middle of the night to the disturbing death of a famous and politically-connected businessman in Plum Tree Pagodas, a luxury apartment complex owned by the influential family Fu – and ordered to investigate with the utmost secrecy.
Meanwhile, Philip Ye, a homicide detective with Chengdu Public Security Bureau, has just returned from an ill-tempered holiday in the U.K. to discover that his unhappy protégé, Constable Ma Meili, has, against his strict instructions, taken on the case of a vicious killing of a retired army general – a crime that intrigues Philip Ye so much that he adopts the investigation as his own.
Little do Philip Ye and Prosecutor Xu know that their respective investigations will yet again set them on a collision course – and that the assassins of both the businessman and retired army general are still stalking the rainswept streets of Chengdu.
Hi and welcome to my review of Liberation Street!
As I said in my cover reveal for Liberation Street: it felt like I’d been waiting for this book for ages! Wild horses weren’t going to stop me from diving in as soon as humanly possible and while my expectations were ridiculously high after the brilliant time I had with the first Philip Ye novel, The Willow Woman, I never doubted Liberation Street would live up to them.
Liberation Street is the second Philip Ye novel and while it can be read as a standalone, I would advise you to read its predecessor before tackling Liberation Street. For one, it will help you see the character arcs and I think it also places the characters as well as the current events in a slightly different light if you know what came before. Moreover, it’s an outstanding book and you’re really missing out if you haven’t read it!
If you find this book daunting in any way, I’m here to tell you to embrace your fears and Liberation Street! At over 600 pages, it’s a rather big book (about twice my preferred page count, to be honest) but it does not matter in the slightest. This author has such a fluent, easy-to-read-and-process writing style, the pages just fly by. And that’s not even taking into account a story that is so addictive you just can’t stop reading, and if you’re forced to stop, you’re compelled to pick it up again at the first chance you get. If you don’t read many books set in China, I’m sure the setting and things like names etc. may be a bit daunting, I know it was for me before reading The Willow Woman. Still, I never had any issues with any of that, in either of the Philip Ye books: the characters, both main and side, are memorable and the context clears up whatever lingering doubt there might be.
Speaking of the characters, the main protagonist is Philip Ye, obviously. What makes him stand out, besides his good heart hidden under a veil of moodiness and a bit of a temper, is that he’s a combination of unlikely things. He’s the son of a Chinese father and a British mother, and while he’s a serious and experienced homicide detective, he also believes in the supernatural. This is the quote that describes him perfectly, he is:
caught twice between two worlds: between the East and the West, and between the physical and the afterlife
Admittedly, there were a few instances I wanted to kick his behind and tell him to get a grip 😬😂 And then there’s the smart but spirited (read: volatile) prosecutor with whom he’s caught in a will-they-won’t-they type of relationship, the constable I will never picture as anything other than a Chinese Brienne of Tart, my favourite Hawaiian-clad hero and a whole bunch of secondary characters I cared about a whole lot more than I usually do about secondary characters.
I love mysteries, thrillers, any sort of crime fiction, but while I enjoy the occasional police procedural, I’m not a die-hard fan of that particular subgenre. That’s partly why I love this series so much: although Liberation Street is technically a police procedural, there is so much going on and there is so much culture and folklore woven into it, that it never feels like your typical police procedural. This is of course also aided by its setting in China, thanks to which Liberation Street exudes a completely different vibe than its British and American peers, and it is one that I enjoy immensely.
I’m a huge fan of the ending and I love that everything is neatly wrapped up, having come to a conclusion in a quite organic manner, while still leaving the door open a crack for the sequel. Which I will be waiting for with bated breath. I can only hope it won’t be another 84 years…
I had the best time with Liberation Street. With its setting and its various mysteries to solve and a whole bunch of characters, this could easily have been a very dense book, but it’s not, it’s so accessible and readable and just flat out fantastic. If you’re in the market for some atmospheric, fast-paced and lush crime fiction, do put Liberation Street at the top of your shopping list.
Liberation Street is out now in digital formats and paperback.
Massive thanks to the author for the eARC. All opinions are my own.