Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Short Story Wednesday: Two Stories by S.J. Rozan



I am a big fan of S. J. Rozan's Lydia Chin and Bill Smith series. Briefly, the series is about two private investigators. Lydia Chin is an American-born Chinese private eye in her late twenties who lives in New York’s Chinatown with her mother; Bill Smith is a white private eye in his forties who lives in Manhattan.  They are not partners but they often work together on cases. I have read all of the books in that series except the latest one, The Art of Violence, which will be on my summer reading list.

S.J. Rozan has written several stories using Lydia Chin's mother, Chin Yong-Yun, as the main character. The first one I read was "Chin Yong-Yun Finds a Kitten" in Bullets and Other Hurting Things, edited by Rick Ollerman. I enjoyed that story so much I started looking for others featuring that character.

I am fairly certain that the first story about Chin Yong-Yun is "Chin Yong-Yun Takes a Case", which was first published in 2010 in Damn Near Dead 2, edited by Bill Crider. I don't have a copy of that book, but the story was available as an eBook. In that story, Lydia's mother gets a call from a woman she plays mahjong with, asking that Lydia help her and her son with a serious problem. Chin Yong-Yun says that Lydia is unavailable, but says that she works with Lydia often (not true) and will help them herself. Along the way, Chin Yong-Yun shares her thoughts about her daughter and her family.

These are the first few lines of the story:

My daughter is a private eye.
You see? It even sounds ridiculous. She follows people. She asks the computer about them as though it were a temple fortune teller. She pulls out their secrets like dirt-covered roots to hand to the people who hire her. What is private about that?

The next story I read, "Chin Yong-Yun Sets the Date", was published in 2020 in Deadly Anniversaries, edited by Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller. The Chin Yong-Yun stories that I have read are lighter than most crime fiction, but even so, I found this one to be very moving. Chin Yong-Yun is visiting her husband's grave on the anniversary of their marriage. She tells the story as if she is talking to him, telling him about a case that she recently solved, and also about some recent family news. This one was the best of the three I have read so far.

I don't think you need to have read any of the Lydia Chin and Bill Smith novels to enjoy these stories. I found them very entertaining. There are at least three more stories featuring Chin Yong-Yun and I hope to find copies of those to read also.





16 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I read the one in DND 2 but nothing else by Rozan. Keep meaning to correct that.

Cath said...

Not familar with this author or this series at all but I love the sound of them. I'll look the novels up as I'm intrigued. The New York setting appeals too, I'm just reading a crime novel by an Italian author where the first part is set in Manhatten and then it moves on to Italy. I was kind of shocked to discover the book has quite a low rating on Goodreads because I'm quite enjoying it. Now I wish I hadn't looked. LOL!

Margot Kinberg said...

I really like Rozan's Lydia Chin/Bill Smith stories, Tracy. Now you've got me intrigued here, because I do like the writing style. And what an interesting character to focus on for these stories. I may have to look them up.

TracyK said...

Patti, the characters in the Lydia and Bill series are the real draw for me, but the setting in New York and usually in Chinatown is also a plus. I loved the earlier books the most, but the most recent one that I read, Paper Son, set in Mississippi, with references to the Chinese who settled in the Mississippi Delta in the late nineteenth century, was also very good.

TracyK said...

Cath, I know what you mean by being affected by ratings on Goodreads. I try to avoid looking at anything like that when I am reading a book but sometimes my curiosity overwhelms me and I end up checking reviews. That book by the Italian author sounds interesting.

TracyK said...

Margot, unfortunately the stories are not that easy to find. Maybe someday they will be published in a collection all together. I want to go back and reread some of the early Lydia / Bill books but then I have so many other books to read.

Sam Sattler said...

These characters, and the series, sound like a lot of fun. I absolutely love that quote from her mother...perfect. But I really got a kick out of seeing Bill Crider's name in your post. Before his death, Bill lived in a little town about 45 miles south of me and I would run into him at various bookish events every so often. He was one of the nicest and friendliest guys I ever met. He left us all too soon, and I miss trying to talk him into writing another sequel to his westerns. Those were fun to read.

Rick Robinson said...

Nice to see a new post! I was to have one today but muffed it. I read two of these and liked them both, the one in Anniversaries and in Bullets. DND2 I missed. Just the kind of thing I like these days, light, easy, fun, entertaining.

George said...

I met Rozen at BOUCHERCON and enjoy the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series.

col2910 said...

Not read any Rozan yet, though my wife has read a couple of the books. I never knew there was a DND2 until recently, I did enjoy the first anthology years and years ago.

TracyK said...

Sam, Glad to hear that you are a Bill Crider fan. I have read a few books in his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series and aim to read them all. Which westerns of his have you read? I have read Outrage at Blanco, but not the sequel to that one. How wonderful that you met him. I can easily believe that he was friendly, I have heard nothing but good things about him.

TracyK said...

Rick, it is good to be posting. I just ordered a copy of Damn Near Dead 2. It is hard to find at a decent price and I took a chance on a cheaper one.

These stories are light and fun and I enjoyed that about them too.

TracyK said...

I am envious, George. Going to Bouchercon and meeting S.J. Rozan. I am so glad she started publishing books in the Lydia Chin / Bill Smith series again.

TracyK said...

Col, I ordered DND2, used online, and will probably try to get a copy of the first volume too, someday.

Todd Mason said...

I've read other stories by Rozan, but not yet this series, as I recall, despite having one of the or both books around and awaiting my full attention,

Bill was an utter gentleman to meet in person. Only did so once, at the 2001 Bouchercon...one of the highlights of that mostly delightful con.

TracyK said...

Todd, I have enjoyed everything I have read by Rozan, although I haven't read any of her standalone books. Someday I will do that.

I would have loved to meet Bill Crider, although I am mostly too shy to enjoy meeting new people.