The Balance of Heaven and Earth: A Magistrate Zhu Mystery by Laurence Westwood – reiew

The Balance of Heaven and Earth - A Magistrate Zhu Mystery



My rating: 3 of 5!
Published: the 30th of September 2018
Written by: Laurence Westwood
Series: standalone
Length: 277 pages
Source: Free copy generously provided.
Disclaimer: I was lucky enough to receive a free copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review. However, please note that all opinions and views are my own.



The blurb:

I have been unable to write a judgement that does not seem to offend my conscience, or indeed Heaven, in some manner. Because I do not wish to influence your thinking unduly, I have destroyed all my personal papers and notes in regard to this dispute, preferring you to start afresh. Forgive me for this. All I ask is that you consider and examine Jade Moon most carefully before coming to a decision. I find her fascinating and unsettling in equal measure, and fear the consequences of a wrongful judgement. I will say no more.

My sincerest best wishes to you and your family,

Magistrate Qian
Fifth District, Chengdu Prefecture
1st day of the 2nd Moon, 1085

So ends the letter of welcome (and of warning) to Magistrate Zhu, newly arrived in the remote border town of Tranquil Mountain. He has travelled far from his extensive family estates on the outskirts of Kaifeng – the glorious Song Dynasty capital – hoping to find atonement for past mistakes.

Yet he quickly discovers that Tranquil Mountain is anything but tranquil. The town is beset with simmering tensions since the death of his predecessor. Before Magistrate Zhu even has time to accustom himself to his inexperienced and wayward constabulary and the lowliness of his new surroundings, there is a mysterious murder, rumours of ghosts and blood-thirsty bandits out on the streets, and a disturbing kidnapping to solve – as well as the tragic and tangled legal circumstances of the local heroine Jade Moon to unravel.

For the balance of Heaven and Earth to be maintained, and to prevent catastrophe coming to Tranquil Mountain, Magistrate Zhu is well aware that not a single injustice can be allowed to stand. As he struggles to reach the correct judgements, he realises he has no choice but to offer up his career and perhaps even his own life for the greater good. And, in so doing, he discovers that as Jade Moon’s fate rests in his hands, so his fate ultimately rests in hers.



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Usually I only read about ancient times, when its mythology related. But when Laurence Westwood contacted me and offered to send me a physical copy of his book, I thought why not give his ancient history crime fighting book a go. After all I did get really into CSI a few years ago – and I do enjoy a game of Cluedo, so who’s to say I wouldn’t get into crime fighting in ancient China? And the blurb, oh the seductive minx, lured me right in, and brought me to Tranquil Mountain – a town in China, in 1085. Magistrate Zhu is accepting a new position in Tranquil Mountain. It is his hope, that the new position can help him redeem himself and get rid of the “dis” in dishonoured.


His arrival to this small and isolated border town sets things in motion, and he quickly finds himself neck deep in heaps of paperwork. On top of that, he has to solve a supposedly unsolvable murder mystery. Add to the mix a complicated legal case and some office drama, and you find yourself in midst of the intrigue. This complicated story is a great way to begin to connect to China, even though this story is set close to a millennium ago, you can’t help but admire and relate to all the wonderful characters. Aside from the title and main character, Magistrate Zhu, I adored Jade Moon. That woman has strength coming out the wazoo, and she did make the story more interesting for me.



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Laurence Westwood has created a very special world indeed. The writing is amazing, and it pays attention to every little detail as much as the big things. Nothing feels small or insignificant. It’s perfect to reincarnate a time that may seem lost, and it is impossible not to feel Laurence’s love for China and it’s mysterious history.

As readers we come across many different books, and they all rate different for each of us. Sometimes the plot is enough to save the day, sometimes the characters are what makes or breaks it. Sometimes it’s all about the details, world building or even character development. But at some point it will be about the match. I’ve seen another review, where a blogger wrote this:


I am suffering from a serious case of “right book, wrong reader” syndrome right now, because in all honesty, this book was good, but just not for me.


Thanks for putting my thoughts into words, Kat. I don’t usually quote other bloggers in my reviews, but I thought it’s only fair to give credit where it’s due. And this is exactly how I felt. I cannot fault the book, even if I wanted, and certainly not the writing. But unfortunately, my love of Cluedo wasn’t enough to make me really like the book, or connect with any of the characters. However, I’m still going to recommend the book for anyone who enjoys crime, murder mystery or ancient China themed books.



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Lets chat

Have you read this book? Do you like crime and murder mysteries? Let’s chat in the comments!


Before you go:
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