New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

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

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews


“A book out of bounds... Saves the western by blowing it to bits. Don’t wait for the movie.”—Marlon James, Wall Street Journal
“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.”—Chanelle Benz, New York Times Book Review
“Impressive… As a kind of redemptive imaginative act, Lin has created a poetic and cinematic story centered on a Chinese American sharpshooter.”—Jessie Zack, San Francisco Chronicle
“Tom Lin is a sublimely gifted debut novelist... He offers a window onto a buried history [and] exposes the racism that was, is, and will be at the heart of the American experiment... In McCarthy-like sentences, Lin also pays homage to the arduous journey of Ming and his companions and to the landscape that sprawls around them... Lin’s pilgrims meet their fates in startling, wondrous moments... The body count is high, but so is the level of literary skill and topicality... Lin flips the script: his outlaw is a living, breathing rebuke to white racism, an Angel of Death to the worst perpetrators... While Lin probes American obsessions with race, guns, and myth-making, he also imbues his grittiness with stunning lyricism and a larger spiritual aura.”—Hamilton Cain, Oprah Daily
“Brilliant.”—New York Magazine
“A rollicking gallery of Western archetypes.”—Bethanne Patrick, Los Angeles Times (Best Books of Summer 2021)
“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.”—Fran Wilde,
“Enthralling… an odyssey that is vengeful, lyrical, and supernatural, flipping the script on atrocities committed against Asian Americans.”—Oprah Daily (Best Books of June)
“A thrilling journey that calls to mind beloved Westerns... The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu is a smart, modern take on a classic genre that defies expectations and delivers serious entertainment.”—Town & Country
“Subverting the usual thrust of Wild West stories, Lin makes ruthless Chinese-American outlaw Ming the anti-hero, dispensing vengeance-flavoured justice to those who, in traditional Westerns, are lionised no matter how vicious or racist: sheriffs, judges, bounty hunters, railroad tycoons and their foremen… Meticulous descrip­tions of everything from campfire scenes by moonlight to the workings of revolvers betray plenty of research done in the field… If Quentin Tarantino doesn’t have Lin’s number already, he soon will.”—Stephen McCarty, South China Post Magazine
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