• The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu

  • By: Tom Lin
  • Narrated by: Feodor Chin
  • Length: 9 hrs and 38 mins
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (342 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction

Finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award

A Chinese American assassin sets out to rescue his kidnapped wife and exact revenge on her abductors in this New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice: a twist on the classic Western from "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

©2021 Tom Lin (P)2021 Little, Brown & Company

Critic Reviews

“Eminently entertaining…. There's a lot to love in this expansive debut novel from Tom Lin. The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu is a truly cinematic Western. Its vistas and action sequences are perfectly designed for fans of graphic novels and the big screen alike. Similarly, the body count is crafted for an audience that enjoys adrenaline's pulse in its ears. Lin's wordcraft is deft and painterly, whether he's describing a fight scene or a desert…an important, vivid story, with characters led through the landscape by the demands of its plot…. I hope we see more of all these stories from Tom Lin in the future.” (NPR)

"Impressive…. As a kind of redemptive imaginative act, Lin has created a poetic and cinematic story centered on a Chinese American sharpshooter.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Part revenge fantasy, part classic bloody tale of the Old West. In this book, things return - people, oceans, violence - but remembering is a choice and the body bears the cost.... In this unforgiving landscape, which Lin vividly and meticulously describes in prose whose music is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy’s, even a rainstorm can take on mythical proportions.” (New York Times Book Review)

Featured Article: Listening Well Is the Best Revenge—The Best Revenge Thriller Audiobooks


No one among us hasn't imagined what it would be like to right a wrong. And even though it's better to turn the other cheek, forgive, and forget, it's still fun to listen to fictional characters enact their revenge. If you need a balm for a slight you’re still seething over, we’ve created this handy list of the best revenge thriller audiobooks to add to your library. Whether you're rooting for the story’s hero or antagonist, these tales of revenge will have you glued to your seat.

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What listeners say about The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

interesting take on the Western genre

I listened to “The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu” narrated by Feodor Chin, written by Tom Lin. While I’m not a big fan of the Action & Adventure and Cowboy genre, the New York Times raved “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”. This piqued my interest.

Beyond being a reimagined western, the story captures the historical abuse of Chinese immigrants in building the Central Pacific Railroad. Author Lin adds some mystical elements, which could be distractive in a less skilled author’s hands. The magic added to the adventure aspect.

There’s a lot of murder, which is expected. Lin made the landscape part of the murderous feel. Lin also used the horses in his atmospheric impressions. Those poor animals were thirstier than the people, and I’ve not read of the amount of horse deaths in a single story. The horse deaths were as tragic as the humans. Horse lovers beware!

Ming Tsu is a Chinese orphan raised by a white man to become an assassin in the wild west. When the story opens, Ming is seeking vengeance from the men who stole his wife Ada and sent Ming to prison for 10 years hard service in building the Pacific Rail line. This atrocity occurred because Tsu is Chinese (though don’t call him a China-man if you want to live) and he married a white woman, against the social mores of the time. Ming is dying of thirst on the salt flats of Utah. And that knowing thirst never leaves the story.

Ming teams with a traveling magic show which adds some incredibly interesting characters. A deaf/blind/mute communicates telepathically for example. Ming is hired to guide the show to safety. Ming and the magic show meet up with a blind old man, the Prophet, who can sometimes see the future.

Yes, this western warps into fantasy, and then back into a blood-soaked fight of a classic Western.

I enjoyed the story as a unique genre. I also get a kick out of those novels in which the “good” guy (the one we root for), is not a good person. Ming is killing men, right and left; yet we want him to find his woman and avenge his wrong.

I’m happy I gave this a shot. It’s unique (for me) and one that gave my imagination fodder. Author Tom Lin writes so well that it’s easy to see every scene.

36 people found this helpful

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  • Z
  • 06-11-21

Borrowed from Murakami

Tom Lin almost transparently borrowed from Haruki Murakami in the magical realism throughout his just ok book. I bought the Audible because of a review on The New York Times. I was not overwhelmed. I did finish the book in one week on my daily walks.
But the review was inaccurate.

21 people found this helpful

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Terrific Story

I loved this book. The action starts right away and doesn't let up, but there are lots of other things going on too. I'm not a big fan of violence and this is the story of an assassin, so there's violence but it doesn't drag on and on or take over the story. The characters are varied, the magical realism is so fun, and the history and geography are woven throughout, as is the reality of being non-white in that time period. Good job by the narrator on all the characters. Great read!

15 people found this helpful

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Great Story/Weak Narration

A story I wish I’d read rather then listened to. Of many scores of books I’ve listened to on Audible, this was the weakest narrator. Perhaps I’m spoiled by Frank Muller- - the master.

14 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Maybe read the book, all these voices sound the same

The story is okay but it’s probably better to read it. All the voices sound the same in my opinion so it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

14 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Good to pass time

it's a pretty violent story without much point. Don't look for any deep meaningful substance to this book but it is good entertainment. The production was very good.

12 people found this helpful

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Kill Bill Three

Revenge with violence without sensible limits is the theme of this book. It is one in the genre of real American western stories mixed with Samurai histrionics—with hand guns and Henry rifles instead of swords. The Central Pacific Railroad is another character as is the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Magic and surrealism are intertwined to aid our “hero.” A story for almost everyone.

11 people found this helpful

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awesome!!!

definitely needs to be a movie or TV series mini-series for that matter. this story fights Against Racism in history definitely brings back the true presence of Chinese immigrants in America and also their role in building the United States

5 people found this helpful

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Magical Western

I loved this story, it's a crazy revenge story and I love the protaganist Ming Tsu, he's on a mission and he's ready to slay. But I loved the magical characters that I didn't expect. I was hooked, really recommend this bood

4 people found this helpful

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Weird western and lots of death by railroad spike

Hmm. Perhaps this was too artistic for me to appreciate it. The writing is definitely lyrical, combining a classic western revenge tale with mysticism. MC Ming leaves quite a bloody body count throughout the story, with many deaths inflicted using a railroad spike. But, nothing really drew me in. Unlike Kill Bill or John Wick, there’s no clever dialogue, beautifully choreographed fight scenes, or bad guys that chew the scenery. For that matter, Ming himself wasn’t someone to root for, or feel for. I found this a chore to get through, ultimately speeding up past 1.5 just to finish.

I’ve recently discovered the “weird western” genre. Better books, depending which way you want to go:
📍The Circuit Rider, if you want less mysticism. There’s still an occult aspect to the murder mystery, but it’s far more Quick and the Dead than weird western. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
📍Make Me No Grave, for a better blend of classic, gritty western and magic realism. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
📍Six Gun Tarot (the audio, not the graphic, book) if you want to lean further into weird western in a tightly written build up to a full on horror book. ⭐️⭐️⭐️
📍Dead Acre novella, if you want to get straight to the supernatural western goosebumps. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

3 people found this helpful

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  • S K NOWLER
  • 06-22-21

Fabulous

I say fabulous, but this is a quest story not a fable. It's the first audio book I've listened to twice through without a pause. At first listen it was a great Western novel, filled with metaphor and deeper meaning. I love a good Western and this was up there with The Unforgiven and The Cowboy and the Cossack. on second listen, however, I realised how closely the book follows the quest format.
The story is set in the brief cowboy period of the West, but there are no cowboys here. instead, the tale focuses on the coming of the railway and the Chinese men who lived and died building it. I could go on but I'll simply end with, I loved this book. I advise you to read it ir listen to it.