A client contacts Lydia Chin to pay off a blackmailer. Although Lydia protests the payoff, the blackmailer has done his/her homework. Any delay would screw up Genna Jing's debut as a fashion designer. It is cheaper to pay off $50,000 for stolen sketches than to delay her show another year. Lydia reluctantly agrees, contacting her sometimes partner, Bill Smith, to be her back up. Right after she makes the money drop, someone shoots at her and she ducks. By the time things calm down in a couple minutes, the money is already gone. The blackmailer wasn't the person who got the money, though, and still demands it.
Lydia understands the Chinese woman's reluctance to release any details - she's Chinese herself and is caught between the traditional Chinese and American cultures. Finally, though, Genna gives the name of the possible blackmailer. But Lydia and Bill arrive too late - the man is dead before they are able to meet with him. This is one more in a string of troubles that have beset Genna in the past couple months. Her backer and lover, John Ryan, gets a deal lined up, then something happens to the supplier or the shop that promised to sew the garments or the sketches or...
Genna fires Lydia to keep Lydia safe and to hide a secret. Now, though, Lydia is involved. So is her pride. She is going to investigate the missing sketches, the man's death, another woman's hatred, and a missing sister. Back at home, her mother keeps trying to match make and her brothers try to protect her. No good Chinese girl should be a private investigator.
S.J. Rozan has a good grip on this cozy mystery series. She alternates her novels between Lydia and Bill. She tells Mandarin Plaid in Lydia's first person narrative. This not only allows the reader to follow the clues and Lydia's thought processes but also to follow the conflict she has as a first generation Chinese American between her mother's Chinese traditions and her personal desires as an American woman. She throws in romantic conflict between Lydia and Bill to keep the reader interested in the personal side of the series.
At the same time, Mandarin Plaid includes a pretty good mystery. I was able to conclude (but not prove) one larger piece of the puzzle, but many of the smaller pieces kept me guessing. The descriptions keep the reader entertained - it was a hoot when Lydia pretended to be an INS agent pulling a "surprise" inspection in a sweat shop. The best way to check the place out is to have all the illegal aliens suddenly disappear for a while.
|Lydia Chin and Bill Smith:||
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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