Title: The Golden Hairpin
Author: Qinghan Cee
Translator: Alex Wooding
Publisher: Jiangsu Phoenix Literature and Art Publishing House (2015), AmazonCrossing (20 February 2018)
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery/Thriller, Crime, Translated Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Murder
Thank you to both AmazonCrossing and NetGalley for providing me with an electrical Review Copy of The Golden Hairpin by Qinghan Cee; translated by Alex Wooding, set to publish February 20, 2018, in America. All opinions mentioned in this review are my own.
Huang Zixia was a seventeen-year-old super-sleuth. Since the age of thirteen, she has been assisting her father with investigations, using her extreme sense of observation to solve crimes. Now, she is the lamb having been accused of poisoning her entire family to avoid an arranged marriage. Thankfully, Huang Zixia befriends the grumpy and distant Li Shubai, the Prince of Kui. He offers to assist her in solving her own case if she can solve the Four Directions Case in ten days. Huang Zixia goes under-cover as a Li Shubai’s loyal eunuch and together they solve the Four Directions Case. However, before Huang Zixia can begin investigating her family’s murder, Li Shubai’s betrothed disappears without a trace. With only a golden hairpin as a clue, can Huang Zixia find her before it is too late?
When browsing through “Read Now” titles on NetGalley, The Golden Hairpin’s cover really stood out to me. I know, I know, you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover; but who can resist anything with a spooky birdcage on it? That has to make for a good mystery novel eh? I read the other two reviews on NetGalley – a two and four. Neither reviews were particularly helpful in determining if this was a good choice to read or not. So I decided to go for it and add in my own two-cents.
Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised! Although I struggled through the first five chapters, I felt like I was reading a Nancy Drew novel held in Imperial China. Huang Zixia really held her own throughout the entire book. Especially, when she had to interact with the cold Li Shubai (whom I kept picturing as Shang from Mulan) as much as she did. Although Li Shubai was a serious jerk, I do believe Huang Zixia and Li Shubai’s personalities balanced each other out. I really enjoyed this dynamic more when the wannabe detective/undertaker Zhou Ziqin was in the mix since he did not know Huang Zixia was disguised as the eunuch, Yang Chonggu.
Although I did enjoy the plot to The Golden Hairpin, there were quite a few things that bothered me about the novel. The first being, within the first chapter, they mentioned how Huang Zixia was charged with murdering her family four times. In total, the entire story of the poisoning was mentioned at least five more times, if not more (I stopped counting when I finally felt myself thinking “ugh. this again?” It seemed like the tell was being used as the way to only put words on the pages instead of assisting in the plot.
The second thing I did not like was the pacing of the novel. As I mentioned earlier, I really struggled through the first five chapters. That is because I honestly had no idea what was going on. Somehow, between everyone talking about how Huang Zixia supposedly murdered her family to avoid marrying Wang Yun, she somehow solved the Four Directions Case with hardly any evidence. I am glad they added a rundown of how she figured it out because there were zero clues for us to follow before. Once we moved onto the large case in the novel, the disappearance of Wang Rao, the Princess-to-be of Kui, the pacing picked up and had an easier reading flow to it. The clues and hints also became more noticeable for the reader.
Overall, I gave The Golden Hairpin 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I will not be purchasing this novel to add to my collection when a physical copy comes out. I am still extremely pissed off about the major cliffhanger. However, I probably would not read the second book if one comes out. Personally, I do think that this novel would be better suited if categorized as YA instead of General Fiction (Adult). I could see high-schoolers enjoying this as a “gateway” mystery/thriller to some more intense psychological thrillers. Those who are already big psychological thriller or crime novel fans probably should give The Golden Hairpin a pass.
“They say Haung Min didn’t do it all himself. When Huang Min was on the Board of Punishments, a lot of people suspect his daughter broke many cases for him at teh age of fourteen. The Emperor personally commended her – said if she were a man, she could be prime minister!”
“Prime minister?” the storyteller said with a sneer. ” Did you hear the rumor that when Haung Min’s daughter was bornm the room filled with red light? People took it as a sign that she’d bring misfortune to her family. Now it’s really come true.” The storyteller paused. “She’s the one responsible for killing that family!”
– The Golden Hairpin by Qinghan Cee