Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Shanghai Moon (hardcover, $24.95), by S. J. Rozan

Rozan is the author of one of my favorite mystery series. Her two private investigators, Lydia Chin and Bill Smith, are as different as night and day, and Rozan masterfully gives them their own voices. Her books alternate between Chin's and Smith's points of view, so sometimes Rozan writes with the tone of a feminine iron butterfly and at other times with a masculine world-weary soul. They are partners whose partnership has seen better times. When The Shanghai Moon opens, they have been incommunicado for a month after their last case, trying to redefine for themselves their work and personal relationships.

In fact, it took Rozan seven years to return to her honored series. There were those of us who were fearful she never would return. However, it is far easier for fans to wait to see what happens than for an author to re-energize herself after eight novels in a series. The Shanghai Moon was worth waiting for.

Lydia Chin is a modern Chinese woman in New York City, but at the same time, she bows to many conventional Chinese traditions. She lives with her mother, a doting, nagging, interfering stereotypical Chinese mother. And there is great joy and laughter in listening in on their exchanges. With one foot in the tough p.i. world and the other in the Chinese community, Lydia is uniquely suited to working on certain cases. When a fellow p.i. asks for Lydia's assistance in finding some jewelry stolen from China, she is able to maneuver through Chinatown for information.

Eventually, Lydia needs Bill's help to find The Shanghai Moon, a legendary brooch that seems to have left a trail of dead bodies on its way to New York, and they effect a reconciliation of sorts.

Rozan gives us a little history lesson as she follows the path of the brooch that was created to commemorate the marriage of a Jewish woman, who escaped from Nazi Germany and resettled in Shanghai, and an aristocratic Chinese man. The tale is more about the past than the present, and it wasn't a past I knew anything about. Jews escaping to Shanghai? Without padding her book to excessive dimensions, Rozan eloquently gives us the sadness, alienation, and romance of the times.

I hope the way Rozan ends her book means that she intends to continue her Chin/Smith saga. I can only hope.

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