Bai Jiang—San Francisco’s best-known souxun (“people finder”)—is hired to track down the mysterious Daniel Chen. Police inspector Kelly suspects Chen of being involved in a botched drug heist that resulted in the death of an officer. Bai has her own suspicions. She thinks the police just want to see Chen dead.
Her investigation leads Bai into deadly intrigue as she finds herself caught between international intelligence agencies and merchants of war, who deal in death, drugs, and high-jacked information.
To make matters worse, she's thirty-something and dating again. It's not easy juggling a suitor with family connections, a brazen young man who finds her irresistible, and her ex--the father of her child.
World conflict and family strife explode as adversaries face off in San Francisco's Chinatown, a world away from the one we know.
My second time with author Thatcher Robinson and his souxun – Bai Jiang. The author’s debut novel – White Ginger was enjoyed back in October, 2013. (I hadn't realised it was quite as long ago as that!) Review here.
Bai and her friend, Lee are approached by Detective Kelly of the SFPD for their help in tracking down a missing Chinese-American who is wanted in connection with a drug deal gone bad. This resulted in a cop-killing. Both drugs and a sizeable sum of police money have gone missing and Chen is a POI. Kelly with a fondness for the drink is a barely functioning alcoholic. Bai and Lee are naturally suspicious of the request, but with her Buddhist philosophy and her personal karma to consider, Bai agrees to look into the matter, if it means she can help save a life.
The search sees Bai crossing swords with a vicious Hispanic gang member, Rafe from the notorious Nortenos. Further enquiries point them in the direction of the University of California at Berkeley where Chen teaches. Two dead Norteno gang members await them on arrival.
In the mean-time, Bai has complications on the home front. She is being touted for marriage by her “mother” Elisabeth, to the wholly unsuitable and indifferent Howard Kwan. Elisabeth is actually the estranged mother of Jason. Jason is the father of Bai’s daughter and a ranking member for the Sun Yee On triad. Jason and Bai are still caring and friendly towards each other, but aren't a couple. Howard is actually Jason’s cousin and is hoping a marriage, something being driven by his controlling mother Jade (estranged from her sister Elizabeth also), Jade will secure him the presidency of their multi-billion dollar company at the expense of his two feckless brothers……. still with me?
A further death follows and with Bai humiliating Rafe while adding another waif and stray to her family unit, and Lee getting shot while tailing a mysterious man in black, the pace ramps up a couple of notches.
The case and our proposed nuptials, play out satisfactorily; though not without moments of genuine terror. Great characters, especially Bai’s family dynamic. By the conclusion, I had found myself warming to one member that was extremely irritating to me at the start. Bai herself is warm, engaging, funny and capable and someone I want to read more about in the future.
I loved the setting as well – San Francisco’s Chinatown. Robinson’s prose is probably the closest I’ll get to visit the city, which will do for me.
Moments of great humour throughout, particularly when Kelly strolls into Bai’s office….
Kelly put the pint carefully back inside his coat before taking a sip. “Aah….” A smile spread across his face. “Nothing like a little Irish to start your day.”
Her brows lifted. “I can only assume you’re referring to the whiskey.”
His eyes narrowed as his face squeezed into a jaundiced grin. “Either one would put a smile on your face.”
She frowned. “It’s really sad when you can’t tell the difference between a smile and a grimace.”
He stared at her a moment before shrugging off the comment. “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”
“Seems a little late to change your mind,” Lee observed.
Moments of sadness and regret at the demise of……. I’m not saying – you’ll have to read it to find out who!
All boxes ticked – a 5-fer!
Thatcher Robinson has his website here.
Thanks to the publisher Seventh Street books for my copy of this.