Starting rumors in the art world that new paintings have surfaced by a Chinese artist supposedly killed 20 years earlier in the Tianamen Square uprising are at the heart of the latest mystery novel, Ghost Hero, by the prize-winning crime writer S.J. Rozan.
With its taut, heart-thumping plot, the book is another treat for lovers of Rozan’s series about the private investigator Lydia Chin and her partner Bill Smith.
But what gives the book special focus for human rights activists is Rozan’s spotlight on China’s efforts to crush freedom of expression following the arrest last spring of the artist Ai Weiwei and China’s continued imprisonment of the Nobel Peace Laureate Liu Xiaobo for his writings critical of the government.
And just as she is a powerhouse at building mile-high suspense, Rozan doesn’t flinch, when it comes to reflecting the harsh reality for China’s dissidents.
When the book goes on sale Sept. 27, a portion of the proceeds will benefit Amnesty International, thanks to Rozan’s generosity and support for human rights.
Publisher’s Weekly praised the book for its “engaging characters, crisp dialogue, intelligent storytelling.”
Rozan’s novels have won most of crime fiction’s greatest honors, including the Edgar, Shamus, Anthony, Macavity and Nero awards. She is a longtime human rights advocate who accounts for her support simply: “It’s the way I was raised,” she said.
Her connection to Amnesty goes back to the organization’s work against apartheid in South Africa.
With Ghost Hero Rozan for the first time explores the human right to freedom of expression. Social justice in the wider sense has captured her focus in previous novels, including the desperation of illegal immigrants in A Bitter Feast and urban gentrification and the disenfranchisement of the poor with In this Rain.
She has long been interested in Chinese art and culture so writing a book about the contemporary world of Chinese art was a natural for Rozan.
“But you can’t talk about Chinese artists, without talking about dissidents,” Rozan wrote in an email. “And as a writer I’ve been very concerned with the situation of Liu Xiaobo, for example.”
The detectives in Ghost Hero risk everything to track down the paintings of fictional dissident Chau Chun and determine his fate. And without spoiling the ending, readers who love a good thriller will be amply rewarded.
As we know, the real world of China’s dissidents too often means terrible suffering. But individuals united can demand change. Amnesty members around the world are demanding that China protect the rights of Xiaobo and other Chinese who are being persecuted by the government.
“Human rights defenders don’t have an author to orchestrate the whole thing and make it all come out all right,” says Rozan. “But I sure wish they did.”
You can add your voice to the campaign to release Liu Xiaobo. Send a message today calling on China to protect the right to freedom of expression.