Showing posts with label Bill Smith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Smith. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Not So Plaid. Much Too Dull

“Elegant, porcelain-skinned Genna Jing is sure her latest designs are worth a fortune.  That’s why she is willing to pay the fifty grand being demanded by the person who stole her design book.  But when Lydia--backed by her partner Bill Smith--makes the drop, everything goes wrong.  Soon a simple case of high-fashion extortion leads Lydia and Bill from Chinatown to Park Avenue, and from murder to more money: a million dollars in exchange for a missing man’s life…”
~ Mandarin Plaid blurb

Final Thoughts in a Flash!

You know, it’s funny that I put up a fuss two years ago, surprised by how the second book in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith hard-boiled private eye series, Concourse, featured a narrative strictly from Bill’s first-person view.  See, after the first book, China Trade, I wanted Lydia back; and there was no wrestling me away from that wish.  Nonetheless, it took me two years to get over the fact that S. J. Rozan takes her two private eyes and exchange their narratives book by book.  So I was swollen with the ignorant expectation that Concourse would be filled with a bunch of masculine bull and cock; Bill Smith smoking cigarettes and acting like an ass to women and men alike.  Ironically, he did most of all of that in which I just mentioned--but ever so subtle and charismatically done.  I was afraid that Bill Smith would come across as some type of trope-like private eye.  However, after reading the actual book, I came to realize that he had some of those apprehensive characteristics, but with the addition of multi-dimensional layers used to illustrate who he really was.  So in essence, I liked Bill.  Concourse was not only better than the first book in the series, but it was probably one of the better mysteries that I’ve read in a hot minute.

Really.  I was surprised and angered at myself for taking two years to give Bill the chance he deserved.

So two months later here I am with Mandarin Plaid, finding myself bored to tears sweeping my way through a dull, pedestrian-level mystery.  Additionally, through a narrative that just really isn’t all that captivating.  Or at least isn’t as interesting as Bill.  So yes.  I’ve finally stated how wrong and shallow I am to think that Lydia Chin’s voice/books within the series would be superior to Bill’s.  I was sure that the reason I picked up this series was because, as a Chinese-American woman, Lydia would shower me with diversity and a unique narrative angle in the mystery genre.  And she did.  To be completely fair.  Just that in the end, it wasn't all that amazing in Mandarin Plaid.  I put most of the blame on how I felt like Rozan didn't give Lydia a story as thrilling, gritty, or even challenging like she gave Bill in Concourse.  As I mentioned earlier in the post, Mandarin Plaid was quite pedestrian, and if there was one thrilling part in the entire book, it was during a moment where Lydia had to defend herself from a veiled attacker.  Which I might add was rather easy to deduct, concerning who was behind the mask.

That’s not to say that Mandarin Plaid didn't have its good parts.  It had its plot twist and turns and somewhat of a sue flay rising mystery.  However, the better parts were the nuggets of race and sexual orientation conversations built between certain side characters.  Like a wealthy mother willing to pull out all the stops to keep her son from a relationship with a Chinese-American fashion designer.  Most emphasis on the fact that she's Chinese and, therefore, labeled a "gold-digger" by the mother.  Also, Lydia’s gay brother, Andrew, and his partner takes root within the context of the mystery with all stereotypes thankfully removed.  And I always enjoy Lydia’s tryst with her Chinese mother, who berates Lydia with Chinese proverbs and warnings related to both Lydia’s lackluster love life and profession as a P.I.  Things like that are always sweet.  But the thrill in this book was left severely wanting.

Nevertheless, S. J. Rozan’s tight use of language remains in place, with the exception of a few moments in the dialogue where characters consistently shouted “what” to one another after receiving information related to the mystery.

Just a dull read in the long run.  As I said, the case Rozan employed on Lydia was mediocre.  Perhaps that has a lot to do with Lydia's new found profession as a private eye.  Maybe it has to do with her partner's masculinity "deserving" of more challenging cases.  It doesn't matter, though.  I will be back for book four.  Hiccups in a series are always allowed.  And I trust that Lydia will shine brighter in the future.

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