I spent the late 80's reading western books about Japan. I can say that any fictional account of Japan I read then-- I won't say, got it wrong, though some of them did, and howlingly wrong at that-- but failed to present the reality that I found myself. Sujata Massey's mysteries came closest, though her heroine's fluent Japanese always made me lift disbelieving eyebrows.
So I have my doubts about western fiction set in China involving Chinese. There's always Robert van Gulik to show that you can in fact do it right, but face it, very few western writers are Chinese scholars as well. Memory said I'd read the opening of one of David Rotenberg's mysteries in the library and failed to be impressed. But it seems I know his translator through work and since he has at least one source to beta his works I figured I'd give it another chance. Got The Lake Ching Murders from the library and started reading yesterday.
And all is fine and good except partway through I started getting the feeling that I'd read this story before. Not this novel, because I know I haven't read any of his novels through, but- I remember this detail, I remember that fact, I remember the crime in general and the bit about the island people and the ending. But I don't at all remember the bits that stick out now: the grisliness of the murder or the bits with the terra cotta figures or who the murderer was, the last of which I should if I'd read it before because I never forget who done it. I can't make sense of this. Maybe some time four or five years ago I skimmed the book, reading large chunks but conveniently misssing all the details of the murder and the reveal. Which seems unlikely.
Anyway- twitchiness. Cue Twilight Zone music.