by Cho Na, April 4, 2021
56

MILD SPOILERS for the characterization, not the plot.

A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower is a 2020 Chinese drama based on the 2015 Taiwanese novel 摩天大�� (Skyscraper) by 陳雪 (Chen Xue), and directed by three Taiwanese directors: Leste Chen, Hsu Chao Jen, and Matt Wu (source).

Genres: Suspense, Mystery, Crime, Drama
Episodes: 16  Duration: 40 min
Aired: Aug 19, 2020 - Aug 21, 2020
MDL rating: 8.2
Where to watch with English sub: WeTV and TencentVideo


INTRODUCTION

It has been a while since I watched a drama with friendship amidst darkness like in The Long Night and The Bad Kids. So while I was craving for one, I remembered that fellow MDLer lenje recommended me this drama in her comment to the My Favorite Drama Friendships of 2020 article. A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower does not only solve a simple murder case but digs deeper into problems of ethics versus law, logic versus emotion, mental health disorders, and entangled social issues. 

To avoid spoiling you with the plot, I will just introduce you to the characters in the point of view of the investigators on their first encounters with the suspects and other characters, including the lingering question pondered by the detectives on their motives for murder. With that said, the characters introduction will be one dimensional. However, once you watch the drama, you'll realize that most characters are three dimensional. It means how you see them may be different than how they want you to see them, and what they conceal is dragged to the surface throughout the story. To the contrary of spilling you the secrets, my character introduction might pique your curiosity and interest to watch this drama if you haven't yet!

Enjoy!


STORY

A beautiful coffee shop owner suddenly dies in a condominium at the Horizon Tower. This case shocks the whole tower, and after investigation, the clues point to three suspects. All the clues seem to point to the possibility of a love crime. However, in the midst of investigation, new clues begin to emerge, and turn the focus to the victim's complicated and painful youth. Her family, consisting of her step-father, mother, younger brother and foster mother, were implicated in the case.  (excerpt from MDL synopsis)


VICTIM

The victim is 29 year old  Zhong Mei Bao (adult: Angelababy; teen: Zhang Yu Wen; child: Wang Sheng Di). She owns the café on the ground floor of the Horizon Tower and has lived alone in the same residential building for two years. She was found dead with blunt trauma. No signs of physical fight or sexual assault. No signs of property damage. Zhong Mei Bao seldom came out of the apartment besides running the café. The whereabouts of her family are unknown, though she told a few neighbors about having a brother. Police investigation found that when she was a teenager, she was put in a special boarding school for problematic children after stabbing her stepfather.

Did Zhong Mei Bao harbor any past secret that caused her death?


DETECTIVES

Two investigators are assigned to take the murder case. Zhong Jing Guo (Guo Tao) is a veteran detective. In the past, he lost his former work partner because of him. He is also facing a work-related allegation charge. Therefore, he detaches himself from any emotional effect caused by work. He is unsympathetic and straightforward towards subjects of investigation.
Zhong Jing Guo's new work partner is Yang Rui Sen (Yang Zi Shan). She is a rookie detective who was just transferred to the crime division. She is timid but calls out her senior for his biting remarks. Yang Rui Sen is absorbed deeply into the case, to the point of prioritizing the case rather than her personal life, including her relationship with her boyfriend.

How will this unlikely pairing of detectives be able to crack down the case?


SUSPECTS

I will introduce the suspects and everyone who might likely become a suspect in the appearance sequence:

First suspect:
Xie Bao Luo (Lu Yu Lai) - Building Security Guard

Xie Bao Luo is the first person who found the victim. He claimed that he's responsible for Zhong Mei Bao's death because he's negligent to protect a resident during his duty. He has made friends with her when he helped her move in two years ago, and after that frequently helped her at the café. However, he denies having a romantic relationship with the victim. Police investigation found that Xie Bao Luo was a bank manager prior to working at Horizon Tower. He was fired due to money reasons and now he's in debt.  He has seen that Zhong Mei Bao has valuable furniture and belongings.

Motive for murder: Money?

Second suspect:
Lin Da Sen (Rexen Cheng) - the victim's lover?

Lin Da Sen is an architect. He and his wife live in the building but he also owns and rented out the unit where the victim lived. Later the detectives found out that he and Zhong Mei Bao are childhood friends, but Lin Da Sen denies liking her. He let her live in the unit for free because he feels sorry for the victim who has a rough childhood. The police suspect that Lin Da Sen and the victim had extramarital affair. But most likely he will not leave his wife, because she comes from a rich family and he works for her dad who owns an architecture firm. He may have killed Zhong Mei Bao if she is a threat for him. But his alibi is strong: he was at the hospital during his wife's labor.

Motive for murder: Did Zhong Mei Bao threaten him with the secret affair?

Third suspect:
Ling Mei Yu (Ma Liang) - Real Estate Agent

Ling Mei Yu is the real estate broker for the Horizon building. He is divorced, but still lives with his former wife at the building. The police found out that he has a habit of keeping the keys of the condos he sold. He was reported to the police before for breaking into private property. He claimed that he only briefly interacts with Zhong Mei Bao as a café customer. Later, after thorough investigation on the air duct and vents in the victim's apartment, they found his fingerprints on the vent. It was revealed that he used to peep on Zhong Mei Bao. He admitted to the detectives that he's a voyeur but not a killer.

Motive for murder: Did Zhong Mei Bao catch him peeping on her?

Possible suspect:
Li Mo Li (Baby Zhang) - Lin Da Sen's wife

Li Mo Li and Lin Da Sen were a college sweetheart and she married him for love, though her family didn't agree since he's not rich. The police investigation found out that she was a straight A student and a career-oriented woman. However, she had two miscarriages before and when she was pregnant again, her family forbade her to work. During interrogation, Li Mo Li admitted that her relationship with her husband is not good despite just having a baby. They have arguments since she wants them to go to the U.S. for further study, but Lin Da Sen doesn't want to leave his elderly mom alone. Even if Li Mo Li knows about her husband's extramarital affair thus likely killed her, her alibi is strong since she was in labor at the night of the murder. 

Motive for murder: Her husband's extramarital affair?

Possible suspect:
Ding Xiao Ling (Ma Xiao Yuan) - Ling Mei Yu's girlfriend 

Ding Xiao Ling is Ling Mei Yu's on and off girlfriend who also a resident at the Horizon Tower. They used to cosplay sex using the resident's private properties when the owners are not home. After he got divorced, Ling Mei Yu proposed to her but was rejected. Not because she doesn't love him anymore, but he cheated on his wife while they were married. She also knows Zhong Mei Bao and that Ling Mei Yu might like/peep on her. Ding Xiao Ling doesn't have alibi during the murder night so she is worried the police might suspect her. 

Motive for murder: Jealousy?

Possible suspect:
Sheng Mei Qi (Mao Xue Wen) - Ling Mei Yu's ex wife

Shen Mei Qi is Ling Mei Yu's ex wife although they still live together at the Horizon Tower for financial purpose. She knows her ex cheated on her with Ding Xiao Ling as well as his peeping on Zhong Mei Bao. Shen Mei Qi said that Ling Mei Yu won't remarry her because he likes the type of Zhong Mei Bao and Ding Xiao Ling. She said she followed her husband, that was how she found out about his peeping hobby. In fact, her fingerprints were also found on the vent of the victim's place. The detectives suspect that she still loves her ex husband as she defended him for not killing Zhong Mei Bao.

Motive for murder: Jealousy?

Possible suspect:
Yu Ming Yue (Kong Yan) - novelist

Yu Ming Yue is a popular novelist who lives next door to the victim. Her novels are famous and have been adapted to dramas. She and Zhong Mei Bao know each other since both don't have much social life. In fact, they have each other's house key. Though popular, Yu Ming Yue secluded herself. She has agoraphobia (a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help wouldn't be available if things go wrong) and PTSD. The detectives later deduce that her last novel is about the victim. The story is about a romance between a demon and a princess. But Yu Ming Yue hasn't delivered the ending yet. 

Motive for murder: To create dramatic ending for her novel?

Possible suspect:
Ye Mei Li (Liu Dan) - housekeeper/cleaner

Ye Mei Li came from the same town as the victim and has known her for a long time. When they met again, Zhong Mei Bao hired her to help her organizing the New Years party at Horizon Tower. Later she became a cleaner for the building and occasional housekeeper for Zhong Mei Bao and Yu Ming Yue. But she got arrested by the police due to a past case of child trafficking and had kidnapped a boy for 12 years. From interviewing the building residents, the police found out that Ye Mei Li is just too perfect to be a housekeeper. They suspect she has a hidden identity that Zhong Mei Bao knows about. But Ye Mei Li has a strong alibi: she is in prison!

Motive for murder: To conceal her past identity?

Possible suspect:
Zhong Jie (Ni Hong Jie) - the victim's mother

Zhong Jie is Zhong Mei Bao's mother who has gone MIA. She is married to Yan Yong Yian who has beaten her and the children often.  Later when she went to the hospital to treat her wounds, the doctor urged her to report the domestic abuse but she declined. The hospital had to step in to file a police report, thus her husband was arrested. But she kept visiting him in prison. According to her husband, she asked for money to be given to other men. Zhong Jie also had a boyfriend. When she disappeared, her husband said she committed suicide. But Zhong Mei Bao said her stepfather killed her mother.

Motive for murder:  To cover for her husband?

Possible suspect:
Yan Yong Yuan (Jiao Gang) - the victim's stepfather

Yan Yong Yuan has a shady past. He used to own a small electronic company when he married Zhong Jie, the victim's mother. According to him, he really loves Zhong Jie but she married him for money. When his business failed, Zhong Jie urged him to smuggle goods to Hong Kong so he was arrested. After release he tries to find his family but they ran away from him. Later he found his son but he didn't even recognize the father. He told the police that his wife Zhong Jie and his stepdaughter Zhong Mei Bao tricked him. He stated that his wife had other men, he would give her money to be spent with her lovers. Later he went to reality TV show that reunites family members to get his son back.

Motive for murder: Revenge?

Possible suspect:
Ye Shun Jun (Vincent Cao) - the victim's half brother

Besides Zhong Mei Bao's half brother, Ye Shun Jun is also a renown pianist. After his father was arrested and his family scattered apart he was admitted at the psychiatric hospital and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. After many years he reunited with Zhong Mei Bao but they don't interact much due to his busy performance schedule.  He stated that after his father is released from the prison, Yan Yong Yuan has been blackmailed him for money. But since Ye Shun Jun has a psychiatric record, his statement is invalidated. Yang Yong Yuan claimed that his son is ashamed of his father because of his past. Little Ye Shun Jun used to disguise as a girl just to play piano, as urged by Zhong Mei Bao.


Motive for murder: To cover his past?


Just who could be the real murderer? 



CONCLUSION

A Murderous Affair in Horizon Tower truly is an underrated and hidden gem crime drama. Due to its fast release, it is under the radar with not enough exposure time nor a popular cast. For me, the drama is full of plot twists, mind blowing, and kept me on the edge of my seat! Since it's only 16 episodes with 40 minutes running time each, you can easily binge-watch it in one or two days. There is no filler you want to skip, in fact it's packed with details that if you blink, you might miss them. Oh yeah, as I mentioned in the introduction about my craving of friendship amidst darkness themed dramas, did it get fulfilled? Yes, and it's a pleasant surprise, and to borrow my fellow MDLer's words: "it was beautifully revealed".

THANKS FOR READING!


Acknowledgements: Thank you to the editors who edited this article, also to lenje who recommending me this drama.

Credits: I do not own any of the images used. Credits go to the respective owners. Images are from the official posters and screenshots. The gif animation is self made taken from the scene in the officially subbed Tencent channel. 

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