Death Notice becomes an ensemble piece, with a band of complementary characters that tend toward cardboard, some more corrugated than others, but all a tad flat ... Death Notice suffers somewhat from an irony deficiency. Tone wobbles abound, with romantic flourishes undermining the noir. What blows up big in China may prove to be a damp squib elsewhere — but some readers just may feel footsteps treading upon their own hearts.
Zhou’s story is thoughtfully constructed (and skillfully translated)... This procedural, the first novel in China’s most popular suspense trilogy, boasts the rich cultural immersion, the bird’s-eye view of procedural technique in an international police force, and the complex mysteries that have long driven the popularity of Scandinavian crime fiction.
It’s abundantly clear why author Zhou Haohui is one of the three most popular suspense authors in China: Death Notice literally has it all... Death Notice rewards the careful reader and surprises the most jaded of genre fans.
In Death Notice, these are survivable flaws. Riveting and dynamic, Zhou's novel is also topical, perhaps surprisingly so given it and its internet-based dramatization's phenomenal success in mainland China ... Zac Haluza's translation is accessible and presents a Chengdu society that is familiar rather than exotic... the reader of Death Notice should prepare to be hooked...
A bestseller in China, this is the first of Zhou Haohui’s crime novels to be translated into English, and while the story holds up well, some of the writing itself leaves more to be desired... every once in a while, a phrase here and there just feels off. That’s likely due to the translation and, while noticeable, doesn’t distract too much from the overall suspense of the story... [but] there is plenty to keep [the readers] guessing throughout.
Zhou does a credible job keeping the clues and the complicated plot straight, but clichéd prose (“You cut right to the center, like a hot knife through butter. A woman after my own heart!”) may be a problem for some readers. Few will eagerly await the second volume.
An elaborately plotted thriller that explores the limitations of justice... The story, set in present-day China, does not offer much local flavor, and the generally homogeneous speech patterns contribute to a general flatness. A complex exploration of crime and punishment that’s not totally engaging.
Death Notice has a cinematic feel and a frenetic pace... the novel quietly tackles issues which have vexed China in the past ... Not all of the characters are as fully developed as one might wish. This is not uncommon in action thrillers, but perhaps more obvious in a Chinese one, where we struggle to distinguish between many characters with similar-sounding names. Some of the characters do seem to be borrowed from a library of stock characters to include in thrillers ... However, this doesn’t detract from the fun of the intricate plotting and nail-biting scenes involving the entire cast. It might not be wildly innovative compared to American thrillers, but it is pulsating, rollicking entertainment from a country that doesn’t appear all that frequently in our geography of crime fiction.