Review of "Murder in China Red" by Dean Barrett

After 9/11 I read almost no fiction. What tragedies are there to read when one is living in the greatest Tragedy of one’s life? Likewise, with my home state voting against the Senate Majority Leadership, what comedy can match the Comedy of GOP control of government? I drifted to news sources such as The Economist, and later to wise strategists such as Thomas Barnett and Mark Safranski. My difficulty with fiction continued even after I wished to, because I could not focus on fictional plots and fictional stories.

Thus I am grateful to mystery writer Dean Barrett for bringing back normalcy to my reading habits. Along with C.S. Lewis, Barrett as made me enjoy fiction again by painting exotic worlds with real problems. If Ayn Rand’s writings are Romantic Realism — people as they should be in the world as it is — Barrett and Lewis write Realistic Romance — people as they are in the world as it should be.

With that teaser behind us, continue on for my review of Dean Barrett’s Murder in China Red (A Chinaman Mystery).

I was suspicious almost immediately after purchasing Murder in China Red. Unlike the other Barrett novels I read and enjoyed it does not take place in the exotic Orient but the mundane East — specifically, New York. The “China Red” in the title refers to the color vermilion, and the “Chinaman” in the series is the professional name of a private detective who immigrated from Beijing during the Cultural Revolution.

Yet Dean Barrett pulled through. The author has done with once before, with his Vietnam-era tale Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior. In that tale there was no mystery, only a happy tale of army hijinx that because more sad, and romantic, as the pages turn. Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior established Barrett as an author who can go outside his genre, and succeed at the difficult task of evoking the atmosphere of a foreign land and time.

Murder in China Red is the complement to Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior. All the cliches of a detective novel are on full display: the grizzled investigator, the dysfunctional ex-family, the feud with the police, the crummy office, secret agents, even the love to be avenged. Yet the author accomplishes this without his usual evocative atmosphere, instead focusing on building an excellent detective story.

Throughout the book, Barrett also succeeds at the difficult task of building a coherent myth-cycle. The hero of Murder in China Red is a step-brother of the hero in Skytrain to Murder, though they do not meet in either setting. Literary shadows are used to good effect, as characters known to both are tantalizingly outlined.

Murder in China Red is an excellent collection to anyone’s fiction library. Dean Barrett is an excellent author, adept at whatever he tries. From painting a landscape, to boiling a detective, to offering exciting and adventure, Barrett’s pen is mightier than even an femme fatale’s Smith & Wesson 4506.

Murder in China Red, a Chinaman Mystery, by Dean Barrett, is 260 pages. It retails for $11.95 at or $10.75 at Barnes & Noble. Both Skytrain to Murder and Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior have been previously mentioned on tdaxp.

Review of "Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus" by Dillon Burroughs

Earlier this year I received Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman, PhD. Misquoting Jesus ( price, $15.72) is a piece of popular, critical scholarship that attacks the notion that the New Testament could be divinely inspired. While the first four chapters of that book are universally admired, Dr. Ehrman completely fails at his given task. Since its publication Misquoting Jesus has become a media darling, leading to an NPR interview, various press reports, and detailed refutations from blogs.

After my review I received a copy of Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus: Why You Can Still Believe, from the publishing company, Nimble Books. Mr. Burroughs (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) wrote the book-length criticism of Misquoting Jesus to correct some of Ehrman’s errors and generally restore biblical criticism to its primary task of buttressing the Christian faith. This project is successful. (Read on to see how.)

Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus: Why You Can Still Believe is essentially a literature review of the controversy. I recently completed two much smaller literature review on narrower topics (on OODA and PNM theories), so I can imagine the troubles Burroughs went through.

The bulk of the book is composed to the basic criticisms of Ehrman’s fallacious Misquoting Jesus. Burroughs aptly separates true things Ehrman says from false things, and it careful to note ambiguous points as well. It is perhaps this last task that is the most important, because a dish of deception with a dash of truth is poison. For instance, the non-controversial false Trinitarian formula in the New Testament is disposed of, because no Bibles before the Modern era had that incorrect verse. (Thus, it was irrelevant to the evolution of Christian doctrine.) Likewise, the question of Christ’s anger before a healing is well described.

Burroughs is a critical scholar, and Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus is an excellent example of such a work. Near the end of the book the author describes how anti-Christian texts can be responded too, and displays an excellent grasp of unintended consequences of hasty actions. Christianity is an essentially political religion, going back to Jesus and Paul, and Burroughs’ work is a fine contribution to that tradition.

The weakest section of Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus is chapter 9, “Women’s Issues in Misquoting Jesus.” The controversy over sex and gender roles in Christianity is sidestepped, in spite of its fascinating implications for Christian victory. Perhaps the author is avoiding the issue out of fear of controversy. If so, too bad.

Several of Burrough’s comments would make for fine discussion topics. A serious consideration of King James Only arguments was informative. (While the KJV-Only Movement is almost certainly wrong, every proponent I have heard argued with reason and conviction.) Likewise, many of Burrough’s strategic comments can placed along the spectrum of meaningful conflict, if one wished to use modern Christian apologetics as an example of ideological struggle.

Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus is a fine summary of Christian responses to Misquoting Jesus. I am grateful to the publisher for supplying me with a copy. It runs roughly 65 pages, and is available for $12.94 from The book’s publisher, W. Frederick Zimmerman of Nimble Books LLC, is also a blogger. Another review of the book is available from Evangelical Textual Criticism.

A reflection on both books, and this review, is available from Brett Maxwell. My own book on Christianity, Revolutionary Strategies in Early Christianity: 4th Generation Warfare (4GW) Against the Roman Empire, and the Counterinsurgency (COIN) Campaign to Save It, is now available from