Jade Dragon Mountain


It is the dawn of the eighteenth century. On the mountainous border of China and Tibet, a detective must learn what a killer already knows: that empires rise and fall on the strength of the stories they tell. 

Li Du was an imperial librarian. Now he is an exile. Arriving at a remote border town, he is surprised to find it teeming with travelers, soldiers, and merchants. All have come for a spectacle unprecedented in this remote province: an eclipse of the sun commanded by the Emperor himself.

When a Jesuit astronomer is found murdered in the home of the local magistrate, blame is hastily placed on Tibetan bandits. But Li Du suspects this was no random killing. Everyone has secrets: the ambitious magistrate, the powerful consort, the bitter servant, the irreproachable secretary, the East India Company merchant, the nervous missionary, and the traveling storyteller who can’t keep his own story straight.

Beyond the sloping roofs and festival banners, Li Du can see the mountain pass that will take him out of China forever. He must choose whether to leave, and embrace his exile, or to stay, and investigate a murder that the town seems all too willing to forget. 

Part mystery, part exploration of a culture fading into history’s shadows, Hart’s novel is a fascinating, intelligent debut.... Think Agatha Christie writing Shogun—Hart’s captivating debut has solid cross-genre appeal.
Kirkus Reviews
...perfectly melds history with the mystery genre for a lush look at China on the cusp of change.... one of the year’s most engrossing debuts and establishes Hart as an author to watch.
Associated Press
Jade Dragon Mountain is an amazing book - truly wonderful.  Stunning in its atmosphere, setting, the gift of language and great writing.  Elsa Hart and her protagonist, Li Du, deserve a place in every collection.
— Louise Penny
★ ... Hart’s sure command of historical complexities, conflicts between cultures, and plot twists leads to a satisfying conclusion.
Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
...an innate feel for the enigmatic meanings of murder.
USA Today
The writing is lyrically beautiful. Intricate plotting leads to an ending that is perfect and surprising. The history is fascinating and reveals the world, its atmosphere and the culture of a relatively unknown Chinese period.
— RT Book Reviews (Top Pick)
The mix of history, thriller, and layers of storytelling make for a complex and rewarding novel that deserves a wide readership.
— Library Journal
This debut historical mystery deftly combines ingenious plotting and suspense with a subtle understanding of China, its culture, and its people.  The protagonist, Li Du, a librarian and intellectual, is well worth keeping an eye on.
— Donna Leon
The intricate, detailed mystery never disappoints, but Hart’s descriptions set the book apart, illuminating a world for readers to savor.
Elegantly written, tightly controlled, and sweeping, Jade Dragon Mountain will leave its readers thinking as much about the nature of storytelling and memory as the vivid recreation of a poignant period in the history of China.
— Matthew Pearl
...powerfully evokes the aesthetics of the time and place...
Wall Street Journal
...opens a window on 18th-century China.
Christian Science Monitor
...achieves an allegorical resonance...
Asian Review of Books
an intoxicating debut from a promising new writer
Bookpage on the paperback release

Jade Dragon Mountain was the RT Book Reviews 2015 Best Historical Mystery, a Library Journal pick for Best of 2015 Audiobooks, a Barry Nominee for 2015 Best First Novel, a BookPage pick for 10 Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2015, and an IndieNext Pick for September 2015.