The White Mirror by Elsa Hart
This is the second book in Elsa Hart’s Li Du mystery series. Disclaimer: I did not read her first book: Jade Dragon Mountain before reading this one. However, The White Mirror stands alone enough that the book is quite enjoyable by itself.
The story takes place in China in 1708. We find Li Du, former librarian of the Forbidden City, traveling with a caravan through the high mountain passes that separate China from Tibet. As the weather sets in and the caravan is beset by a snow storm, they find themselves traversing a bridge to an isolated estate, and the only shelter for miles around. On the bridge a monk sits waiting. It is only when the party draws close that they can see the monk is dead, his face painted with pagan symbols, and his hand still gripping the knife that has ripped open his belly. Over the next several days, while the caravan and other travelers are snowed in together at the remote estate, it falls to Li Du to unravel the mystery of the dead monk.
Elsa Hart writes a good, evenly paced mystery. The setting is compelling. You can almost hear the snow crunch under the characters shoes, and you can imagine the vast and almost otherworldly beauty that the mountainous borders of China must have to offer. The characters are varied in their motivations and several good suspects come to our attention throughout the book. This is also a mystery written in a way I personally find satisfying: the clues are all there. As the reader you are aware of everything Li Du is. The mystery, when solved, is solidly based on what came before, not seemingly pulled out of the ether at the last second. Additionally, Hart does a good job of disguising what is important, with no overdone advertisement of the clues.
In all, this is an enjoyable mystery in a fabulous setting. I find myself intrigued enough that I will more than likely go back and read the first novel in the series.
An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Minotaur Books, in exchange for an honest review. The White Mirror is scheduled for release on September 6th, 2016.