The Man from Beijing


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  • ISBN: 978-0307472847
  • My Rating: 6/10

In a small village in Sweden almost all people living there are brutally killed. Among the victims are also the foster-parents of the mother of Birgitta Roslin, a judge. And so she starts her own investigations...

The Man from Beijing is basically a three-in-one book: The first part is about the massacre in the Swedish village; the second part takes place in China and the USA in the 19th century and tells the story of a Chinese man named San; and the third part returns back to the present and is about two powerful Chinese siblings, descendants of San, and deals with politics and corruption. Each part on its own is well-written, but the whole doesn't fit together. The links between the parts and the overall plot feel too constructed.

Quotes from the book

People don't write the truth, but what they think you want to read.

"I'm dying", he gasped. "For God's sake, I'm dying. Help me." - "Where are you?" But the woman received no reply. Karsten Höglin was on his way into the endless darkness.

"There's a dead man lying there", he said. "He's been beaten to death. And there's something missing." - "What do you mean?" - "One of his legs."

Probably they were hippies left over from the sixties.

Sundberg had no answers, only a set of circumstances and many dead bodies. She had a couple still alive who had withdrawn to this place in the middle of nowhere from Stockholm, years ago. And a senile old woman in the habit of standing in the road wearing only a nightdress.

Were there people who worked harder and received so little in return for their labour? He had never found anybody he could ask, since everybody in the village was just as poor and just as afraid of the invisible landowner whose stewards, armed with whips, forced the peasants to carry out their daily tasks.

When the harvest failed, there was almost nothing to live on. When there was no rice left, they were forced to eat leaves. Or to lie down and die. There was no alternative.

The inhabitants of the village were just waking up. Everybody apart from his parents. They were hanging from the tree that provided shade at the hottest part of the year.

He didn't want his brothers to have to see their parents hanging from a rope with their mouths open. He cut them down with the sickle his father used out in the fields. They fell heavily on top of him, as if they were trying to take him with them into death.

The passage of time was relentless and capricious, and one would lose the battle with it in the end. The only resistance a man could offer was to make the most of time, exploit it without trying to prevent its progress.

Ya Ru sat down at his desk. It was always bare when he left in the evening. Every new day should be greeted by a clean slate on which new challenges could be spread out.

"That's Natasha", said Hermansson. "Her real name's something different, but I think all Russian women should be called Natasha."

"He comes to stay here once a month in order to be left in peace so that he can drink himself silly in his room. When he's drunk, he sings hymns. Then he goes back home."

She felt afraid but knew this was usual after a person had been attacked. Fear, but also anger, a feeling of having been humiliated, distress. And a lust for revenge. Just now, lying in bed, she would not have protested if the two men who had mugged her had been forced to kneel down and shot through the back of the head.

There's a risk that I won't be able to distinguish between what's going on in my mind and what actually happens in reality.

"How do you know that he was guilty?" - "He resisted arrest."

Hong Qiu had seen a lot of people die. She had been present at decapitations, hangings, firing-squad executions.

"Searching for truth is like watching a snail chasing a snail", Ya Ru said pensively. "It moves slowly, but it is persistent."

Ya Ru had no time to realise that something had gone wrong, catastrophically wrong. The bullet hit him in his right temple and killed him instantly. All his important bodily functions had already ceased when his body fell onto a table and knocked over a vase of flowers.

"We think that a lot of people were pleased or relieved when he died, even among those regarded as his friends."