Today’s team review is from Jessie, she blogs here https://behindthewillows.com
Jessie has been reading The Balance Of Heaven And Earth by Laurence Westwood
One might classify this book as an Ancient Chinese murder mystery, complete with a mysterious love interest, and, technically, it is.
Because the story does take place in ancient China (as in the year 1085 ancient) set in a remote border town of China near where the “barbarians” are still causing trouble. And indeed the finding of a murderer is central to the plot line. And there is a handsome female of certain interest. However in reading it I would say it was much more about the new town’s magistrate finding his way through the moral and practical pit falls of guiding a city rather than the solving of a mystery.
“So officials grew to believe clerks were obstructive, and clerks grew to believe that officials were mostly tyrannical and impractical. That anything was ever achieved in China at all was a miracle.”
And while it was not what I would call action packed, the characters (even the minor ones) were excellently portrayed. They always called each other by their full names (a mouthful if your full name is Trainee Legal Secretary Li) but they all exuded their unique personalities with not a bit of wry humor sprinkled throughout so well, I couldn’t fault them a bit for it.
“I have never heard such nonsense! Every man needs a wife. How else is he to make good decisions?”
Would I recommend it? I would say this book is for the deep thinker and the history buff rather than one looking for a murder mystery and a love story but if that sounds like your cup of tea, check it out!
I have been unable to write a judgement that does not seem to offend my conscience, or indeed Heaven, in some manner. Because I do not wish to influence your thinking unduly, I have destroyed all my personal papers and notes in regard to this dispute, preferring you to start afresh. Forgive me for this. All I ask is that you consider and examine Jade Moon most carefully before coming to a decision. I find her fascinating and unsettling in equal measure, and fear the consequences of a wrongful judgement. I will say no more.
My sincerest best wishes to you and your family,
Fifth District, Chengdu Prefecture
1st day of the 2nd Moon, 1085
So ends the letter of welcome (and of warning) to Magistrate Zhu, newly arrived in the remote border town of Tranquil Mountain. He has travelled far from his extensive family estates on the outskirts of Kaifeng – the glorious Song Dynasty capital – hoping to find atonement for past mistakes.
Yet he quickly discovers that Tranquil Mountain is anything but tranquil. The town is beset with simmering tensions since the death of his predecessor. Before Magistrate Zhu even has time to accustom himself to his inexperienced and wayward constabulary and the lowliness of his new surroundings, there is a mysterious murder, rumours of ghosts and blood-thirsty bandits out on the streets, and a disturbing kidnapping to solve – as well as the tragic and tangled legal circumstances of the local heroine Jade Moon to unravel.
For the balance of Heaven and Earth to be maintained, and to prevent catastrophe coming to Tranquil Mountain, Magistrate Zhu is well aware that not a single injustice can be allowed to stand. As he struggles to reach the correct judgements, he realises he has no choice but to offer up his career and perhaps even his own life for the greater good. And, in so doing, he discovers that as Jade Moon’s fate rests in his hands, so his fate ultimately rests in hers.