Today I very delighted to be part of the Death in Shanghai Blog Tour
Guest Post by MJ Lee
I remember one evening going for a walk in Shanghai behind the Bund. It was one of those cold December evenings when there’s the scent of roasting sweet potatoes and chestnuts in the air. I was living and working there at the time and had grown to love the city.
I had been walking for ten minutes when suddenly I reached a small square which I had never visited before. At each corner of the square, four art deco buildings towered over me, virtually unchanged from the 1930s when they were built. I closed my eyes and suddenly was transported back to that era; the syncopated sounds of jazz music, the muffled roar of Studebakers, the rattle of old trolley cars, the cries of the street hawkers, and the hustle and bustle of a multi-cultural city filled the air.
It was at that moment I decided there would be no better location for a series of detective novels than old Shanghai, the city of Joy, Gin and Jazz. The Inspector Danilov novels were born.
But before they could actually reach the page, an immense amount of research was needed. Visits to the police museum and the old Shanghai Municipal Council archives gave me a background to the organisation of the city. It was divided into three sections; the International Settlement, the French Concession and the Old Chinese city, all established by the treaty of 1861. What was the city like? Old tourist guides and memoirs provided some insight. But talking to two old residents of the city gave a much stronger feel for day to day life. Finally, I walked the city time and time again, poking my nose into old forgotten neighbourhoods and lost alleys. I was lucky, whilst much of the city has been destroyed to make way for skyscrapers in the last 20 years, large parts remain as they were back in the 1930s.
The character of Danilov took longer to realise. My breakthrough came when I was reading a police memoir of the time. This ex-sergeant stated that when they were really stuck with a case, both the Shanghai Police and the French Gendarmes turned to their White Russian detectives. Inspector Danilov and his sidekick, Detective Sergeant Strachan quickly took shape.
‘Death in Shanghai’ is the first novel in the series. It’s 1928, a murdered blonde is found on the ‘Beach of Dead Babies’ with a Chinese character carved into the body. Inspector Danilov, a White Russian in the Shanghai Police, is called in to investigate.
Danilov is under pressure to solve the case quickly but he has his own problems. He is still searching for his wife and children, separated from him when they fled Russia. While inside the police force, jealousy of his success has created conflict with his colleagues. The opium pipe offers him his only escape.
More bodies are discovered, each with a different Chinese character carved into their corpses. Danilov is now in a race against time, struggling with his own personal demons and with the devil that is haunting the streets of Shanghai.
The second book in the series, ‘City of Shadows’ will be published in March 2016 and is available for pre-order on Amazon now. Martin can be contacted at his website writermjlee.com, on Facebook at writermjlee or on twitter at, you guessed it, writermjlee.
Death in Shanghai by M.J Lee
Shanghai, 1928. The body of a blonde is washed up on the Beach of Dead Babies, in the heart of the smog-filled city. Seemingly a suicide, a closer inspection reveals a darker motive: the corpse has been weighed down, it’s lower half mutilated…and the Chinese character for ‘justice’ carved into the chest.
The moment Inspector Danilov lays eyes on the dismembered body, he realises that he has an exceptional case on his hands. And when the first body is followed by another, and another, each displaying a new, bloody message, he has no option but face the truth. He is dealing with the worst kind of criminal; someone determined, twisted…and vengeful.
Someone who must be caught….whatever the cost.
Death in Shanghai is the first novel in M J Lee’s Inspector Danilov series, perfect for fans of Philip Kerr.
About the author:
Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites.
He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations.
Whilst working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarter of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in 1920s and 30s.
When he’s not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.
Click below to enter giveaway