The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin

Published on January 19, 2022

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Reviewed by Nicole Zimmermann 

With the unforgiving conditions of the desolate desert in the American West as a backdrop, Ming Tsu is on the road to California settling scores with each stop. After he is separated from his true love and forced to work on the railroad, Tsu must check every man off his list before he can be reunited with Ada. After reconnecting with the Prophet and joining up with a traveling act, Ming Tsu’s journey includes both realistic and fantastical elements. This story includes Quentin Tarantino-style savage, yet nonchalant violence coupled with magical realism making this a true Weird Western. This story of a Chinese American cowboy shines a light on the forgotten Chinese men who built the railroad cutting through the American West, which offers the Western lover an opportunity to read a story that does not center on a white man, who is usually the heroic figure in all Westerns. 


I enjoyed reading this fast-paced book, which was truly unlike anything I have ever read before; although the book contains elements of magical realism, the story feels grounded. Tom Lin’s prose is polished, and the story did not end how I expected it to, which is a bonus. 


Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Favorite Excerpt:

“The snake slid alongside his body and paused before his face as though examining his features. Ming watched it. Thick rings of muscle rippled along its length. It opened its mouth and gave a soft hiss, almost conversational.

                “You won’t take me now, will you?” Ming asked aloud.

                The viper spoke in sibilants he could not understand.

                “It ain’t my time yet, sir,” Ming said. “I ain’t finished. She’s still waitin for me in Californie, I swear it.”

                For a long time the snake was quiet. Then it opened its mouth again, wider now, unhinged its jaw, thrust its fangs out, retracted them once more. At last it lowered its head to the sand and lay motionless.

                “Thank ye,” Ming said.”


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