Earlier in the year I posted my theory on why Scandinavian Crime Fiction was so popular at the moment.
I felt that basically good writing, excellent translating, good plots, really interesting characters and an attempt to educate as well as entertain were the keys to this success. Some pretty good marketing has also had a part to play.
I am about half way through Henning Mankell's The Man from Beijing and this wide ranging saga with an educational back story about the exploitation and humiliation of China, and the Chinese, in nineteenth century has me hooked.
Mankell gives us a picture of that time and its blatant racism without pulling any punches, and that is what makes this book so interesting.
'But you mustn't forget that the Chinese are also base and cunning liars and swindlers: they are arrogant and greedy and have a bestial sensuality that sometimes disgusts me. On the whole they are a worthless people.'
But he also makes reference to modern events that I suspect have been gleaned from real life, and do not reflect too well on our present day society.
I was particularly interested in the 19th century China section of the book, because forty years ago I was considering giving up dentistry, and studying history. [Most dentists working in the NHS during those underpaid and overworked times considered giving up almost every morning.]
I already had my dental degree but took A-level History, which in those days consisted of one paper on European History, one on English History, and a chosen special subject from a long list.
I chose as my special subject The Great Powers in the Far East 1840-1941, passed the exam, but fate intervened when I was given the opportunity to buy the practice I was working in at the time.