by Thatcher Robinson
Bai Jiang is a people finder. Her current case has her looking for a teenager who was sold by her brother to a gang who would use her as a sex slave. However, Jiang has more problems on her plate than a missing girl. These include: troubles with a powerful lawyer over an incident at her daughter's school; battling her emotions regarding her ex husband who is a triad enforcement officer; and tracking down the person or persons involved with taking out a contract on her life.
Lots going on here and it all seems to mesh. The original case, finding the missing girl, looked exciting, but turned out to be routine (per se) and the mystery behind the contract killing kept me reading.
Bai Jiang: 30, Chinese, willowy, likes black clothing, short spiky hair, high cheekbones, surly attitude, a people finder, lives in San Francisco, struggles to live under Buddhist philosophy, excellent knife skills, has a twelve year old daughter, parents were murdered when she was young, drives a Mini Cooper Clubman, father and previous generations were triad
Lee Li: gay, Chinese, tall, high cheekbones, aquiline nose, Bai's partner, drives a vintage 60s red Caddy convertible
Jason Lum: Chinese name is Hu Lum, triad assassin, ex husband of Bai and father of Bai's daughter, muscular, black hair
I like Bai but she does seem to have a strange dichotomy going on. On one hand, she's tough and doesn't mind punching out the bad guys. Or even killing the bad guys. On the other, when she sees death, she's, almost, overly disturbed by it. The character is presented as tough and hard, and living in Chinatown, San Fran, one would think this would be her nature. But she's not all the time and instead of humanizing her, bothered me because I wanted her to get over it and move on. She flips from being concerned to okay with death, especially when a couple chapters later, she kills someone with no second thought. Plus, she's a triad descendant and should know the score.
Because many of the characters are Chinese, some of the sentences are in Chinese but they're translated afterward. Again, I must bring up Bai's voice. At times she's cynical and tough but when she gets emotional I want to dump her. I only bring up Bai because I can't help but think of my own heroine and how I've portrayed her. When I see a tough woman who uses physical skills to defeat her enemies who also expresses emotions, I look closely to see if I've done a good job writing from a woman's point of view. Bai and my Mallory are similar in a few respects and I want to feel for Bai when she has issues. When she speaks, I want to feel her emotions and I had trouble adjusting between the tough, almost light-hearted material (which I liked) and the tear laden parts (which I couldn't quite involve myself).
Each chapter is titled by a philosophical quote that is repeated at some point within the chapter. Sometimes I felt it a little forced, but I liked the challenged of the author to see how he could incorporate it each time. Profanity that I felt was inserted because the author thought it should be there, not that it actually should be there. It works, but I didn't like it. I was surprised by the back cover blurb about the book and the actual book and how it played out after the search for the girl was over. I thought the search might last longer. There is an interesting turn of events to the mystery that kept me reading. The action was pretty intense and quick. Writing could have been a little tighter in that the author used 'she' to begin a lot of sentences.