Friday, August 27, 2021

The Art of Violence: S. J. Rozan

This is the thirteenth book in S.J. Rozan's series about private investigators Lydia Chin and Bill Smith, and I have read every book in the series. There were one or two I was disappointed in, but overall I rate the series very highly. After Ghost Hero in 2011, there were no more books in the series until Paper Son in 2019. That book was a change of pace, set in the Mississippi Delta where many Chinese immigrants settled in the last half of the 19th century.

In this book, Lydia and Bill are back in New York. Bill Smith lives in Manhattan; Lydia Chin is an American-born Chinese who lives in New York’s Chinatown with her mother.  They are not officially partners but they have an agreement that they will work on each other's cases if requested. The element that I have always liked about this series is that the narrator of the books alternates. This book is about one of Bill's cases and he narrates this book. Usually books centered on Bill's cases are grittier than the ones about Lydia's cases, and that is true here. That is another element that adds variety to the books in the series.

Description of this book from the dust jacket:

Former client Sam Tabor, just out of Greenhaven after a five-year homicide stint, comes to Bill Smith with a strange request. A colossally talented painter whose parole was orchestrated by art world movers and shakers, Sam's convinced that since he's been out he's killed two women. He doesn't remember the killings but he wants Smith, one of the few people he trusts, to investigate and prove him either innocent or guilty.

NYPD detective Angela Grimaldi thinks Sam's "a weirdo." Smith has no argument with that: diagnosed with a number of mental disorders over the years, Sam self-medicates with alcohol, loses focus (except when he's painting), and has few friends. But Smith doesn't think that adds up to serial killer. He enlists Lydia Chin to help prove it.

My Thoughts

This was a great book in the series. I like the relationship that has grown between the two partners over the series. Bill and Lydia are wonderful characters; neither fits the stereotype of a private eye. Also the secondary characters are well done. Especially Sam Tabor, the client, crazy, irritating, unreliable, but easy to like, and police detective Angela Grimaldi, open to suggestions yet willing to stand her ground when necessary.

The competitive world of art in New York is a large part of the story: not just the artists, but collectors and agents. All of them can be interesting characters, although sometimes abrasive or repellant.

And then there is Lydia's mother, Chin Yong-Yun. Although she usually plays a small part in each novel, she is one of my favorite characters, and has starred in several of Rozan's short shories. See this post. In The Art of Violence, she plays a very important part at the end of the story.

I usually reject books about serial killers, but this one did not have the standard aspects of serial killer thrillers that I dislike (creepy serial killers who share their thoughts, for one). 

I loved the ending.

This series does not have to be read in order, but for me, reading the series in order worked best.

There is a new Lydia Chin / Bill Smith book coming out in December, Family Business. I will be getting it as soon as it is available.


Publisher:  Pegasus Books, 2020.
Length:      275 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Lydia Chin / Bill Smith, #13
Setting:      New York, New York
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I have always meant to try one--but the problem with a series that you know you will not complete-is which one to try. Later ones might be stronger but so much history exists. So I rarely venture into a new series now. Phil read a standalone book by her that he really liked. Absent Friends. Also she was kind enough to give me a blurb for Concrete Angel. I really appreciated that.

Margot Kinberg said...

This really is a fine series, Tracy. I like the Chin and Smith characters a lot. I also agree with you that the variety in these novels adds a lot of appeal to them. The mysteries themselves work well, too. Glad you enjoyed this.

Rick Robinson said...

I have had a paperback copy of China Trade, the first in the series, I think (?) on the shelf from the time when there were only three or four books in the series. I don’t know why I’ve never read it.

CLM said...

I've never tried this series but I am adding it to my TBR!

TracyK said...

Patti, thanks for letting me know that Phil enjoyed Absent Friends. I have had a copy of that book for about 15 years but still haven't read it. I should do that.

I do think the best books in the Lydia Chin and Bill Smith series are the early ones, but the last two have been very, very good too. I like the Lydia books for the Chinatown setting (mostly) and Bill's books because they are grittier. She won an Edgar for the eighth one, Winter and Night.

TracyK said...

I agree, Margot. I would like to return to some of the earlier books and reread them.

TracyK said...

Rick, China Trade is the first book. I read that one in 2008 and then read the next eight books in 2009. China Trade involves Lydia investigating a theft from a Chinatown museum, and I don't remember much about it. I always enjoy a Chinatown setting.

Like Patti said, it is hard to get into a series that has so many books (although 13 is not so many compared to some authors like Bill Crider's Sheriff Rhoads mysteries or Bill Pronzini's Nameless detective.

I just finished reading Just One Damn Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor last night and I loved the book.

TracyK said...

That's great, Constance, I hope you enjoy whichever book you try in the series.

Rick Robinson said...

Glad but not surprised you enjoyed Just One Damn Thing After Another. There’s lots more in the series, and though I’m behind, I have read the next couple and liked them as much of more.

TracyK said...

Rick, I thought there were only ten in the Chronicles of St. Mary's series plus the two short story books. Now I see there are 12 books in the series. Oh well, one book at a time.

Lark said...

I haven't read any books in this series, but these books sound interesting and fun! And I like that the books alternate between the two main characters' POVs. :)

TracyK said...

Lark, I have mulled over why I was always so attracted to this series. I think it is a combination of the two main characters and the New York Chinatown setting, which is not the main setting for all the books but is still a factor because Lydia lives there.

Sam said...

Rozan is one of those authors that cause me to do a double-take every time I see their name. I start wondering why they are familiar...and then I learn that, no, I've not read any of their novels, maybe just a short story or two. I know you love these, and that's enough (I hope) to finally give me the push to get my hands on one of them.

TracyK said...

Sam, I always review Rozan's books when I read them because I want to encourage others to read them, but then of course I worry that other readers won't enjoy them as much. I really think this series is worth a try and one of the earlier ones is the best place to start.

col2910 said...

I have a couple somewhere, definitely not this one. I ought to give the series a try some day. My wife enjoyed one years ago, that I haven't got around to. I think she gave up on another.

TracyK said...

Col, I hope you try them some day. If you have one of the earlier ones, those are the ones I like best. On the other hand, some readers liked the ones I was less fond of. Normal for any series or author I guess.