Monday, October 26, 2015

Ghost Hero: S. J. Rozan





Macmillan describes the Bill Smith/Lydia Chin novels as:
Bill Smith is a 40-something white private investigator who lives in Manhattan; Lydia Chin is a late 20-something American Born Chinese private investigator who lives with her mother in New York’s Chinatown.  They are occasionally professional partners on a case, with complicated (and mostly separate) private lives.  A critically acclaimed, award-winning series, which has won nearly all the major crime fiction awards (the Edgar, the Anthony, the Shamus, the Nero, the Macavity, and the Barry).
The element that I have always liked about this series is that the narrator of the books alternates. The first book was narrated by Lydia Chin; the second book was narrated by Bill Smith; and so on. With that approach, each book reveals more about the personality and the backstory of the two protagonists.

Ghost Hero is told from Lydia's point of view and adds a new investigator to the mix: Jack Lee: art expert, and, like Lydia, American Born Chinese. Lydia has been asked to investigate the reported sighting of new paintings by Ghost Hero Chau, talented and celebrated ink painter. However, Chau has been dead for twenty years, killed in the 1989 Tianamen Square uprising. Jack Lee has been approached by someone else to find out about the rumors that have been spread.

I like this series a lots, yet this book was a disappointment for me. It is much more light-hearted in tone than previous books, and the relationship between Bill and Lydia is almost totally overshadowed by the inclusion of a new PI in the mix. Such a big change in tone and direction threw me out of the story from time to time. Many other reviewers noticed this, although some reviewers liked the changes much more than I. 

There was a lot of dialogue, when Bill, Lydia, and Jack get together to discuss the case, and when one or more of them is gathering information from various sources. Realistic but not my favorite story telling technique. One reviewer commented on the witty dialogue. Another found the dialogue to remind them of teenagers, and I agree. Thus, this novel is a great example of the enjoyment depending on the audience.

The story gives us a picture of the art scene in New York's Chinatown and the politics involved. That aspect of the story was very interesting. Publishers Weekly gave Ghost Hero a starred review, and says: "Engaging characters, crisp dialogue, intelligent storytelling, and a minimum of violence add up to another winner for Rozan."

I also recommend the earlier books in the series. The eighth book in the series, Winter and Night, was published in 2002 and won the 2003 Edgar Award for Best Novel. I recommend reading them in order because of the character development, but others say to just jump in anywhere. That is particularly true of the last three in the series, The Shanghai Moon (2009), On the Line (2010) , and this one. Each of those could stand alone.

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Publisher:  Minotaur Books, 2011.
Length:      325 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Lydia Chin / Bill Smith, #11
Setting:      Chinatown, New York
Genre:       Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.



18 comments:

  1. So, will definitely start earlier in the series then - thanks Tracy.

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    1. I loved the earlier ones, Sergio. For all the reasons Margot mentions in the comment below. I cannot remember much about the first one, but the 2nd, 3rd and 4th were my favorites.

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  2. My husband really liked ABSENT FRIENDS.

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    1. I am glad to hear that, Patti. I have that book but haven't read it yet, so I will move it up in my reading queue.

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  3. This is a series that I've been meaning to try for a really, really long time. And I do love to start at the beginning. Now to see if my library still has the first books (a problem that is coming up more and more). LOL

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    1. I hope you can find the early books, Kay. They are very good. Starting at the beginning is the best way.

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  4. I agree, Tracy, that this is a great series. But part of what makes it great is the dynamic between Lydia and Bill, and the solid sense of culture as well. The mysteries are well-crafted too. So I'm not sure how I'll feel when I get to this one. Hmm.....

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    1. I am glad to hear you like the series overall as well as I do, Margot. It does have a lot to offer, plus a very independent, capable female protagonist.

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  5. I have one or two of these - not sure which - Mandarin Plaid seems to ring a bell. Unsurprisingly I haven't got to it yet! I think I'll have to stick for now rather than twist....

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    1. Mandarin Plaid is one narrated by Lydia, Col. It is the third in the series and one of my favorites. Chinatown is just a great setting, although I will admit I can't remember the details of any of them before Shanghai Moon.

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  6. Tracy, I think, I'd like to sample this series. I rarely read crime fiction beyond stereotyped PIs and sleuths, so one of S.J. Rozan's mysteries would be a nice change.

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    1. I am sure you would like one of her books, Prashant, and I hope you find one to try.

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  7. I loved this book, Tracy. But then I am a big fan of S.J. Rozan's work. Not that I've read all the Bill Smith and Lydia Chin books by far. But those I've read I've enjoyed. I think that SHANGHAI MOON may be Rozan's masterpiece, hard to top. But GHOST MOON comes close.

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    1. Yvette, I am glad there is someone to speak on the more positive side for this book. I will still stick with the earlier ones as my favorites, but I do know that Shanghai Moon got a lot of praise. I am sure I will reread them all eventually and discover new things I love about them. I wish she would write more of this series.

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    2. I'm sure she will keep writing for this series, even if she occasionally writes a stand-alone. I met S.J. Rozan a few years ago. Very nice, very smart. She's a big NYC sports fan too. Always on the go.

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    3. I hope you are right, Yvette. I will keep looking for an another addition to the series. I am going to read the two stand-alone novels I have too.

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  8. I had to look up which books of this series I have read: not this one. I hadn't realized there were so many.... I trailed off around book 4, but maybe will pick up again.

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    1. Reading this book has encouraged to reread Rozan's earlier books, Moira. How I will fit that in with my backlog of reading, I don't know. I also want to read her two stand alone mysteries.

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