City of Ink

Written by Elsa Hart
Review by J. Lynn Else

China, 1711. Li Du returned to his home of Beijing three years ago and is still trying to unlock a mystery from his past. Working as a clerk in the North Borough Office, his personal investigation is interrupted when he is called to assist the chief inspector at the scene of a crime. At a tile factory, two bodies have been found, the factory owner’s wife and a man appearing to be her lover—both murdered. A discarded love note left at the scene makes the husband their prime suspect. But during inquiries, Li Du uncovers more than a jealous husband. How far can he go before threats from powerful men become more than just brushstrokes of ink on paper?

Elsa Hart’s third Li Du novel continues to impress. The mystery is multilayered and keeps you guessing. The setting breathes within the narrative, vividly enchanting readers into 18th-century China. Hart’s narration has a musical quality that is descriptive while adding cultural flair. From the way tea leaves sulk in a cup to the way walls drape across the landscape like a necklace, the prose is beguiling. With an intelligent plot, intriguing characters, and historical depth, this book is a delight!