Justice Delayed, Justice Denied (A Ming Dynasty Mystery)

Written by Pamela De Voe
Review by Catherine Kullmann

Late 14th-century Ming China is a rigidly stratified society where even the marginalised are organised and subsumed into the greater whole. Family loyalty, connections and influence can cross boundaries, and rights and obligations often conflict with personal honour and prudent self-interest.

Xiang-hua is a women’s doctor whose vocation brings her into contact with people from all walks of life. When a body is discovered at a newly opened inn, she is called upon to act as coroner while her friend and distant cousin, the scholar Shu-chang, is appointed to lead the investigation into the death. The trail leads from the powerful beggars’ guild to local gang leaders and influential families who have the ear of the visiting magistrate, a person with immense authority and power. As they pursue their investigations, the cousins become mired in a swamp of intrigue and corruption where they are finally faced with a crisis of conscience. Xiang-hua and Shu-chang, who are not always in agreement, must decide what personal price they are willing to pay for justice to be done.

In this insightful depiction of China under the Ming Dynasty, the personal struggles of the two protagonists are as gripping as the original mystery. The somewhat inconclusive resolution leaves the reader wondering where this admirable series will take us next.