China Trade is the first in the series written by S. J. Rozan who pairs up a team of unlikely private detectives.
Lydia Chin, a Chinese mother’s aggravation since Lydia has no husband and no prospects for one, solves cases with the help of Bill Smith, tall, lanky and a staunch friend. The best part of this series is the alternating Points of View per book — China Trade allows the reader an intimate portrait of NYC’s Chinatown from an insider, Lydia, with occasional glimpses into Bill Smith’s past. Rozan is a master at vivid imagery, painting her fictional world via a sensual feast of sight, smell, sound, taste – Lydia enjoys and describes the various types of tea, for instance – plus texture. She also draws the reader in and holds them fast, with unique characters and insights, clues to the present mystery as well as past events.
I recommend reading the whole series in order, to fully understand both Lydia and Bill, as Rozan slowly reveals their history and their present working relationship. She also doles out tidbits of what these characters might want beyond those boundaries. But the mystery plot is not secondary to all this bonus material. Rozan keeps the case at the forefront, and ups the stakes or twists the ending to satisfy even the most picky reader. My favorites of the series? From Lydia’s POV: A Bitter Feast, because Lydia finally gets her due from the family. From Bill’s POV: No Colder Place, which really twists things and just when you think you’ve figured it out, nope–you’re wrong.
But read the previous novels for the rich character backgrounds and intriguing plots. Highly recommend this series!