What do people say?

Reviews and blurbs from the intelligence community, readers and China.

Video Book Reading by author Sha Li, Dunsmuir Public Library, May 24, 2014

Local writer, Sha Li, relates how she was inspired by the cyber spying to which she was subjected while working at a university in Beijing in 2001. Event sponsored by the Dunsmuir Public Library, May 14, 2014. Refreshments, raffle and book signing.

From the intelligence community:

Volume 20 Number 3 Spring/Summer 2014

Volume 20 Number 3 Spring/Summer 2014

“The author faced intense cyber scrutiny during the year she worked at a Chinese university.  Many of the insights she gained from that experience is woven into this detailed work of fiction.  Ideal reading for any officer heading over to China on assignment.”  —The Intelligencer, the Journal of US Intelligence Studies.

From readers:

“An enjoyable romp through contemporary Beijing full of intrigue and deception.  Who’s working for whom?  Can you trust anyone?  I was compelled to keep reading as the story unfolded.  An added plus are the author’s carefully drawn descriptions of the characters and the locales around Beijing.  Definitely worth the escapist read.” —Amazon Customer

Sha Li and Qiu Xiaolong pose for selfies at Starbucks in Palo Alto, California.

Sha Li and Qiu Xiaolong pose for selfies at Starbucks in Palo Alto, California.

From China:

“A page-turner with its suspense enhanced from the author’s authentic experience in Beijing in convincingly vivid details, and from the combined perspective of her being both an insider and outsider while struggling through the omnipresent cobweb there.  This book not to be missed for readers interested in mysteries in China.”

—Qiu Xiaolong, author of the bestseller

Purchase Wounds of Attachment here.



Sha Li is a pseudonym to protect the identities of people who inspired characters in this fast paced and gorgeously patterned international spy thriller.  Names have been changed.

Sha Li is a pseudonym to protect the identities of people who inspired characters in this fast paced and gorgeously patterned international spy thriller.  Names have been changed.


Mai packages her first report, which inadvertently includes forbidden keywords, and hits the print command. She had been careful not to search on the permanently disallowed three Ts: Taiwan, Tibet, and Tian’anmen Square. But an article mentioning Beijing University had popped up several days after the controversial announcement that Liu Xiaobo, an imprisoned Chinese dissident, had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Unbeknownst to her, Nobel Prize had become a forbidden keyword phrase, and she triggers a violation.

Within seconds, her printer seizes, and then the computer starts shutting itself down. She reboots, but the news site with the article has locked up, and eventually she is closed out of the web altogether. She can’t connect to any website. Both her work and her personal internet accounts remain down for two days, from Wednesday to Friday. Though she is unaware that this is her third surveillance trigger, she immediately begins to suspect she is being watched. It is Communist China after all.

Mai jumps up from her seat in front of the computer and stares in horror at the chaos on the monitor. Reaching for the phone, she calls Ms. ZHANG.

“Ni hau, Ms. ZHANG, Martin here.”

“What is it, Martin?”

“I would like to stop by your office today after work. Are you available?”

“Yes, today would be all right. After five o’clock.”

Mai walks around the conference table and flips the electric teapot on. The new, stainless steel carafe steams and clicks off in a few seconds. Holding a fresh cup of tea in both hands up to her face where she can breathe the fragrant hong cha, she slouches on the corner of the window sill, looking down through bare branches at the back of the library. Thoughts of Red Guards arresting her for some kind of treasonous internet crime intrude. They could have trusted her to not distribute copies of the article through her network. Right, like I’m a mind reader or something, she thinks, suddenly afraid of the once-innocuous printer that now seems to be under the control of another entity. Locking the office door behind her, she steps into the other office down the hall where Ms. HAN and Dandan Xiaojie work.

Knocking first, Mai steps in and greets the women with “Ni hau” and sits in the empty console across from Ms. HAN. The north-facing room is still hot from the radiant heat available free all over Beijing from mid-November to mid-March. A cluster of potted plants soaks up the warmth and light from the large window above the radiator.

“I’m having a problem with my computer. Have you experienced this before?” she asks casually, her throat tight.

The women regard Mai with staring eyes while she describes the events of the afternoon, culminating in the total shutdown of her computer systems. Of course, they know what happened, but aren’t sharing. Better she hear it from ZHANG.

“That is a new computer and printer. It should be working properly,” says Ms. HAN, the supervisor. She is a brisk engineer by training, now working in the Media Communications Office. Her concerned, sweet face contradicts her practical nature. She lives near the LiNai Apartments, which is part of a huge residential swath across the south end of campus of more than one hundred buildings, housing for employees of the university.

“I’m stopping by Ms. ZHANG’s office to tell her about it,” concludes Mai.

The spring afternoon is warm and inviting, but Mai sees nothing as she pedals her bike to the International Building where Ms. ZHANG has her office. It’s an older building, and the offices are cramped, but Ms. ZHANG likes to be close to the university president’s and the International Department’s offices.

Looking up while knocking on the door, Mai can see through the transom that the fluorescent light is on in ZHANG’s office. She hears a muffled sound and pushes the door open.

The office is piled with books and bound reports on every flat surface in the small room. A huge double-armoire bookcase dwarfs the matching desk crowded with messy piles of papers and books surrounding an older PC. Ms. ZHANG is in black gabardine dress pants and a navy blue hoodie over a cashmere sweater and a simple string of river pearls. She turns her plain and unadorned face toward Mai and gestures to a folding chair.

Ms. ZHANG Hong’s mother and father had both attended Beijing University; that’s where they met. Tradition is strong, and Hong met her husband at Beijing University too, in 1973 when the national entrance examination was reinstated. It had been suspended for seven years during the Cultural Revolution, although the CR was not officially ended until the death of MAO Zedong in 1976. She excelled at politics and language in the engineering school, one of the few female cadres to ascend to a position of dual authority at the university—in the party and in the government. She was both “red” and “expert.”

“Something horrible happened this afternoon in my office … with the computer,” begins Mai, trying not to come off like an entitled American, but there it was. She briefly describes the occurrences and waits for Ms. ZHANG’s response.

“So again, tell me the sequence of steps. First you go to print?” asks Ms. ZHANG.

“Yes,” answers Mai.

“You should not print. You should copy and paste into a word document and not print,” advises Ms. ZHANG.

“What? I thought I was supposed to print the articles,” exclaims Mai.

“You are right to come to tell me immediately,” adds Ms. ZHANG.

“So, can you tell me what’s happening?” asks Mai.

“I don’t know what’s happening, Martin. Let’s wait until Monday and see if computer is still not functioning. So, don’t worry until then, okay?”

“How am I supposed to not worry, ZHANG? I’m really upset. This doesn’t happen at home.” There was that entitled sound again.

Ms. ZHANG looks at Mai’s distressed eyes and says, “Don’t worry, Martin. I will come to visit you in prison.”

“Right, well, you will be there with me since this was a work assignment,” counters Mai, unsure of the humor of the situation.