Chen Guowei, Associate Professor, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature and Transnational Cultural Studies, National Chung Hsing University
On the surface, Lan Xiao’s Mislocation: the Tapeworm Murder Case (2004) is an orthodox work of detective fiction. By means of two criminal cases that take place over a seven-year period, combining chromosomes, azoospermia, and dissociative amnesia and other specialized medical knowledge, the writer creates a weird and mysterious atmosphere. But the story in fact an existential tragedy brought about by human genes.
The story begins when psychiatrist Lan Xiao (the same name as the author) receives a letter from a strange man, Wang Mingyi. In the missive Wang describes how, after returning from a trip to the restroom, his friends he’d been sitting with in a coffee shop completely fail to recognize him. Even his family and place of employment deny his existence, causing him great pain. To prove his existence, Wang plans to turn himself into the police and admit that he is responsible for the murder of female university student Zhang Shifang, which took place at K University seven years earlier. Moreover, at the end of the letter he writes: “Dr. Lan, that year you too were responsible.”
Oddly, Lan Xiao can’t be certain he wasn’t involved in the case. Seven years earlier, while attending a meeting near K University, an unknown assailant knocked Lan cold, and when he came to his pants were down around his knees. At the time Zhang Shifang died in a sealed-off room next to a swimming pool changing room that only women were allowed to enter, but semen and male DNA were found on the corpse, creating a hard-to-explain riddle. Not long afterward, police found Wang Mingyi’s decapitated body; strangely, however, forensic test revealed that the the head and body DNA belonged to two different individuals!
As a whodunit, Mislocation boldly challenges the genre’s narrative conventions, the work’s narrative and structure filled with a variety of postmodernist displacements: in the first chapter the Wang Mingyi’s e-mail and Lan Xiao’s memory form the narrative axis; the second chapter is the criminal-case record, enabling readers to begin to take part in the unfolding of the plot. Professor Qin, the detective and his assistant Little Li don’t appear until chapter three. But in the fourth chapter the writer borrows one of the traditional techniques of detective fiction: the case’s development is recounted from the assistant’s point of view, providing an objective stance but also staying close to the actual facts in a first-person narrative position. But the writer isn’t satisfied with this. Xiao Li, the assistant not only gives an account of the case, but in the presence other characters constantly pretends that he is in fact the detective, the highly local and interesting dialogue presenting rare elements of spoof. In the last chapter all of the above narrators exit, leaving the stage to the killer, who in a letter clearly tells readers that what he writes is the absolute truth. By means of highly original postmodern narrative structures and rich characterizations, Lan Xiao has created a distinctively Taiwanese brand of mystery fiction.
Yang Shengbo, PhD student, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Lan Xiao (1967- ) is the penname of Lan Guozhong, a native of Penghu. An obstetrician-gynecologist, Lan broke into print with the publication of “Butcher Knife” in Mystery magazine in 1985. In 1990 his “Killer Hospital” won the Lin Fo’er Mystery Award, recognition of the writer’s burgeoning talent. That same year Lan Xiao published “Murder at the Freshmen Dance Party,” the first in a series of stories featuring a team of six characters – Professor Qin, Little Li, Arnold, Old K, Xu Xian and Thomas (Lan Xiao) who are on the staff of “Hospital B.”
The series includes the novellas “Murder at the Freshman Dance Party” (1990), “Four Dead High School Student,” “The Rose Murder,” “Murder at Lu Mountain Hot Springs,” (1992), “Test Paper” (1993), “A Suicide’s Corpse” 1995), “Murder on the Orient Commuter Train,” “Winding Expressway under the Hot Sun,” “The Taro-town Incident” (1996), and “I Encountered a Dragon at Big Shell Lake,” and the novels Displaced Body (2004), Light and Shadows (2005), and “The Chrysanthemum Killings.”
Early in his writing career Lan Xiao emphasized tricky mysteries, tight logic, and humorous dialogue, the stories taking place on school campuses; later, after his protagonists graduated and integrated into society, the writer placed greater stress on psychological description, deepening and enriching his fiction. Displaced Body, his representative novel, cleverly fuses nativism, successfully translating and constructing a genre order of mystery literature. In 2009 the work was published in Kodansha Limited’s “Soji Shimada Asia New Orthodox Detective League” series, marking Taiwanese mystery writing’s entrance into the mainstream of international detective fiction, an important literary milestone.
In addition to the writer’s own work, Lan Xiao’s website features a collection of various sleuthing materials and an open forum for fans of detective fiction. A bridge between Mystery magazine and the cyber-world, the site actively supports new writers by acting as go-between with the publishing industry, playing an important role in the development of Taiwanese mystery fiction.
|Work(English)：||Mislocation: the Tapeworm Murder Case|
|Anthology：||Mislocation: the Tapeworm Murder Case|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Locus Publishing Co., Ltd.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010267154|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||No English Translation|