New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
Longlisted for the 2022 Carnegie Medal for Excellence

An astounding debut that reimagines the classic Western through the eyes of a Chinese American assassin on a quest to rescue his kidnapped wife and exact his revenge on her abductors, and “declares the arrival of an astonishing new voice” (Jonathan Lethem).


Orphaned young, Ming Tsu, the son of Chinese immigrants, is raised by the notorious leader of a California crime syndicate, who trains him to be his deadly enforcer. But when Ming falls in love with Ada, the daughter of a powerful railroad magnate, and the two elope, he seizes the opportunity to escape to a different life. Soon after, in a violent raid, the tycoon’s henchmen kidnap Ada and conscript Ming into service for the Central Pacific Railroad.
 
Battered, heartbroken, and yet defiant, Ming partners with a blind clairvoyant known only as the prophet. Together the two set out to rescue his wife and to exact revenge on the men who destroyed Ming, aided by a troupe of magic-show performers, some with supernatural powers, whom they meet on the journey. Ming blazes his way across the West, settling old scores with a single-minded devotion that culminates in an explosive and unexpected finale.

Written with the violent ardor of Cormac McCarthy and the otherworldly inventiveness of Ted Chiang, The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu is at once a thriller, a romance, and a story of one man’s quest for redemption in the face of a distinctly American brutality.

"In Tom Lin’s novel, the atmosphere of Cormac McCarthy’s West, or that of the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, gives way to the phantasmagorical shades of Ray Bradbury, Charles Finney’s The Circus of Dr. Lao, and Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. Yet The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu has a velocity and perspective all its own, and is a fierce new version of the Westward Dream." —Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn

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Reader Reviews

Praise

“Infused with magic realism, Lin’s beautifully imagined first novel is an extraordinary epic with page-turning, often cinematic action that transcends the parameters of genre fiction. A brilliant debut, impossible to put down.”—Michael Cart, Booklist (starred review)
“Tom Lin’s debut novel is a special pleasure. There’s blood and humor, wit and wide knowledge, in his telling of this revenge odyssey that rambles across the vastness, harshness, and myriad dangers of the Old West. The nuanced prose is firm and evocative, and we have a gritty, luminous, and fantastic take on the era and the people. Ride this one hard, folks, and put it up wet.”—Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone
"In Tom Lin’s novel, the atmosphere of Cormac McCarthy’s West, or that of the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, gives way to the phantasmagorical shades of Ray Bradbury, Charles Finney’s The Circus of Dr. Lao, and Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love. Yet The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu has a velocity and perspective all its own, and is a fierce new version of the Westward Dream. This is a superb novel that declares the arrival of an astonishing new voice."—Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Feral Detective
“The prophet in Tom Lin’s extraordinary novel refers to his friend Ming as a ‘man out of bounds.’ Likewise The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu defies the boundaries of genre, at times standing staunchly within a perfectly researched historical world, and then strolling nonchalantly past those barriers into the world of magic and haunted souls. It’s a story that’s both brilliantly vibrant and brutally dark.”—Elizabeth Crook, author of The Which Way Tree
“Considering the American West and the classic Western from a Chinese American perspective, Lin briskly and beautifully delivers a story that’s at once thriller, romance, redemptive tale, historical, and deadly serious romp.”
 —Library Journal
“This is a book with no throwaway sentences, no filler... Lin underscores the invisibility of the Chinese to white Americans.”—John Yau, Hyperallergic
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