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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trail of Blood. S.J. Rozan. Ebury Press (2010)

This is a very enjoyable and superbly structured crime story. Lydia Chin, a Chinese-American private investigator, is hired to locate some jewelry stolen in China and smuggled to the US. The items belonged to an European Jew who fled to Shanghai to escape the Nazis. As Lydia and her partner investigate the history of the family who owned the jewels and their whereabouts in New York, both stories twist and turn. The reveals are very well staged, the layering of the stories from the past and the present is done with sure, subtle skill and the conclusion is surprising and deeply satisfying.
S.J.Rozan has accomplished a considerable feat with this book, she has escaped the traditional restrictions of the genre and created a credible, optimistic, funny and tough female lead. Lydia Chin is very engaging, neither bitter nor battered, she is smart, fallible and open. Lydia has family concerns rather than family problems, is actually, genuinely friendly with a police officer and is stubbornly persistent. There is no shortage of unpleasant people in the book and the plot is steeped in violence and betrayal, the human element shines through.
The Chinese context to the story, both in pre-war Shanghai and New York's Chinatown is fruitfully woven into the story. The lasting power of traditional values and forms is explored in a very natural way, they are integral to the story. The history of the Jewish refugees to Shanghai is surprising and handled with considerable care, the dreadful impact of the war on Shanghai is revealed. The whole cast come to life with quiet assertiveness and the coils of the plot are sharpened strongly by their actions. A treat.

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