No Way to Die: A Ming Dynasty Mystery
by P.A. De Voe
I received this book free to review; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive compensation at no cost to you.
No Way to Die: A Ming Dynasty Mystery
Historical Cozy Mystery
2nd in Series
Drum Tower Press, LLC (April 18, 2019)
Paperback: 210 pages
Through mystery and intrigue, No Way To Die transports the reader into the complex and engaging world of early Ming China.
About No Way to Die
When a peddler finds a partially mutilated body of a stranger, the unlikely duo of a young scholar and a local women’s doctor once more join forces to discover who killed him and why. In probing the highly gendered world of early Ming China, unanticipated questions surface, complicating their investigation.
As their case rapidly transitions into the unexpected, they find all roads leading away from the victim, forcing them to consider alternate routes. Was the death the result of inexorable bad karma and beyond their purview, or merely the result of mortal foul play? Was the murdered man the intended victim? If not, who was and why? The investigation leads to a growing list of potential suspects: a lustful herbalist, an unscrupulous neighbor, a vengeful farmer, a jealous husband, a scorned wife, and a band of thieves. Who is innocent and who is the culprit? To solve the murder and bring peace to the victim’s spirit, the duo must untangle the truth and do it before the murderer strikes again.
No Way to Die is a fascinating mystery set in the Ming Dynasty. It’s the second book in the series, but it can easily be read as a stand alone. You’ll get minor spoilers from the first book if you read this first, but don’t let that deter you from just jumping in here! When a book is set during a certain time period, I love when you can tell that the author knows what she’s talking about. If you look at V.A. De Voe’s biography below, you will see that she’s an anthropologist with a PhD in Asian studies and a specialty in China. She definitely knows what she’s talking about.
Of course, I was reading No Way to Die for pleasure. It’s a cozy mystery after all! However, it is obvious that it’s historically accurate to the time. The only issue I had with reading this was that it was difficult for me to keep the characters straight at first! Their names are so different from ours in the USA, and, if you know anything about Chinese names, many of them are very similar because their “first” names are based on their family name. Once I started being able to recognize who was who, I was able to more easily follow the characters.
I loved the mystery and was able to follow the clues, though there are certainly quite a few red herrings thrown in to throw us off! The historical accuracy in No Way to Die enthralled me, and it makes me want to learn more about the Ming Dynasty. You’re probably like I am; you hear the words Ming Dynasty and immediately think of vases. Am I right?
Well, did you know that there were women doctors way back then? Our main character, Xiang-hua, is a doctor at only 17. She was taught by her grandmother, who is now a doctor at the emperor’s palace, and is highly respected in the community. Unfortunately, this mystery begins with Xiang-hua having to perform the duties of a coroner since the one who would normally do the job is not around. And doing that job is not something you want to do since the body is unclean and the ghosts may haunt you. Well, they can haunt lots of people, but that’s Chinese culture for you.
In addition to all of the wild history facts you’ll learn, there’s lots of action and excitement in No Way to Die. All of this makes for such a great historical cozy mystery book, and I highly recommend that you read it! I am looking forward to more from this series and give it 5 stars!
About the author
P.A. De Voe is an anthropologist with a PhD in Asian studies and a specialty in China. She has authored several stories featuring the early Ming Dynasty: The Mei-hua Trilogy: Hidden, Warned, and Trapped; the A Ming Dynasty Mystery series with Deadly Relations and No Way to Die; Lotus Shoes, a Mei-hua short story; and a collection of short stories: Judge Lu’s Case Files, stories of Crime & Mystery in Imperial China. Warned won a Silver Falchion Award for Best International Mystery; Trapped was a finalist for an Agatha Award and for a Silver Falchion Award. Her short story, The Immortality Mushroom, (a Judge Lu story) was in the Anthony Award-winning anthology Murder Under the Oaks edited by Art Taylor.
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