... affords an indelible introduction to Shuang’s work ... Around what might, in less capable hands, seem like a premise from Law & Order, Shuang weaves with Dostoevskian skill the voices and experiences of the players in this drama. Among them are two childhood playmates from Yanfen Street, Zhuang Shu and Li Fei, whose lives unexpectedly intersect decades later when Zhuang Shu is a detective investigating the cold case. Through various monologues, the novella creates not just a suspenseful thriller, but a textured, rich portrait of a community over time.
Shuang’s book, his first to be translated into English — and nimbly so by Jeremy Tiang — is named after the dilapidated neighborhood he knows well. He gives voice to an intriguing cast of characters left behind by China’s economic miracle ... Shuang pulls no punches, and the reader has much to gain by stepping into this world of matter-of-fact brutality, mystery and intrigue, unexpected humor and small but meaningful acts of personal honor ... offers modest hope and a fleeting sense of restored harmony, while avoiding any moral high ground or grand narrative. Instead of taking a bird’s-eye view, Shuang places his gaze at the level of his characters ... From start to finish, his scope is close to the ground, his language sparingly emotive and unobtrusive. He never flinches. As a result, we don’t look away either.
... prodigious ... multilayered voices revealing intricate perspectives that result in gloriously gratifying rewards ... His crisp, unadorned sentences might seem to contrast his fantastical twists and turns, but that irresistible combination is waiting to be discovered by lucky new audiences.
... three beautifully spare novellas exploring present day northeast China and the imprints of the past ... Shuang sustains a cool, placid tone, even when reckoning with lingering traumas of the Cultural Revolution, Japanese occupation, and economic decline. Anglophone readers will be glad to get to know this rising star.