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Book profiles B.C. model’s murder

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver



A book written about the murder of British Columbia model Diana O’Brien in 2008 in China has reached the best-seller list on Amazon weeks after its release.

O’Brien was killed in Shanghai 12 days after she arrived for a modeling job when she walked in on her apartment being robbed.

The murder garnered worldwide attention as it happened just months before the 2008 Beijing Olympics, bringing attention to the dangers facing models working abroad.

Now a short novel detailing the murder and aftermath called And the City Swallowed Them by Mara Hvistendahl sits at number two on Amazon’s Best Sellers in Kindle Non-Fiction Singles category.

In her book, Hvistendahl tells the story of two people from different cultures and means, who end up in similar circumstances working without support networks or proper paperwork in one of the largest cities on the planet.

Hvistendahl lived not far from where O’Brien was murdered in 2008 and visited both O’Brien’s parents on Salt Spring Island and the parents of Chen Jun, convicted of murdering the 22-year-old.

“In many ways their lives had a lot of parallels once they arrived in Shanghai,” Hvistendahl told 24 hours from Beijing, describing the hardships the two faced. “They were both very much living on the surface of the city and (Shanghai) can be a very demanding place. Both of them, soon after arriving, very much wanted to leave.”

The book details O’Brien’s family trying to navigate the “opaque” Chinese justice system and the lives of models who work internationally. 

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