Novel Review: The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu

“Ambush!” Ming turned and shouted behind them. “Ambush!” he raised his gun and shot the two lead riders in quick succession, their riderless horses running out from underneath them and galloping panicked onward (85).

A Chinese-American railway worker, accompanied by a blind seer, heads across a magic-realist old west seeking revenge and hoping to reunite with his wife.

Title: The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu

Author: Tom Lin
ISBN-10: ‎ 0316542156
ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0316542159

First Published: June 2021,, and as a kindle.


Freed from his debt to the railway company, deadshot Ming Tsu heads across the west seeking revenge against the men who wronged him and hoping to reunite with his wife. Along the way, he meets a blind seer and joins a travelling circus whose performers have supernatural powers.

High Point:

Fascinating as Ming’s time with the circus may be, his violent odyssey works best when he rides alone or when with the seer, whose second sight proves helpful in a gunfight.

Low Point:

Lin handles the conclusion well, but I found the conclusion somewhat predictable.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Lin takes familiar tropes and turns them into something else, crossing genres much as an iron horse crosses the great plains, and highlighting a character who typically would appear in western, if at all, on the edges of the story. However, character and plot do rely very heavily on those established tropes.

Imagery: 6/6

As he neared Ming could see them more clearly in their rice hats, the queues at the backs of their heads swaying as they moved in time with tie and hammer and nail.

Lin creates vivid imagery with sparse prose, and handles a beguiling blend of the realistic and the fantastic.

Story: 4/6

Characterization: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6

Editing: 6/6 Lin demonstrates a strong prose style. He has been discovered by a major publisher and his novel has achieved bestseller status, so we will be hearing more from him. I suspect his strongest work is yet to come.

Overall: 5/6

In total, The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu receives 34/42