Reflecting the Sky
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Minotaur|
S. J. Rozan is widely regarded as one of the finest crime writers to emerge in the past decade. Praised by critics and colleagues alike, her works have been finalists for most of the major awards and have won both the Shamus and the Anthony Awards for Best Novel. Now, with Reflecting the Sky, she has written her finest, most broad-ranging novel to date.
Lydia Chin, a Chinese-American private investigator in her late twenties, is hired by Grandfather Gao, one of the most respected figures in New York City’s Chinatown, for what appears to be a simple task. Lydia, along with her professional partner Bill Smith, is to fly to Hong Kong to deliver a family heirloom to the young grandson of a recently deceased colleague of Grandfather Gao. They arrive in Hong Kong safely but before they can deliver the heirloom, the grandson is kidnapped and two, separate ransom demands are made. While the family of the kidnapped boy tries to freeze them out, Lydia and Bill must quickly learn their way around a place where the rules are different, the stakes are high, and the cost of failure is too dire to imagine.
S.J. Rozan’s reputation grows with every new installment in her lively series starring the redoubtable Lydia Chin, a twentysomething New York PI and her partner Bill Smith. Here Lydia’s venerable family friend Grandfather Gao dispatches the twosome to Hong Kong to deliver a jade amulet to the grandson of Wei Yao-Shi, whose American family knew nothing of the son and heir he left in Asia. A simple assignment quickly turns into a kidnapping, as Chin and Smith make their way through the complex world of triad politics, Asian intrigue, and the smuggling of Chinese antiquities. Along the way, Rozan treats us to an insider’s view of Hong Kong; if someone you know is headed in that direction, this would be a great guidebook as well as a diverting plane read.
The relationship between the two protagonists has a nice subtext; there’s sufficient sexual tension to spice up the narrative, but not enough to slow down the action. Rozan excels at pacing, and her characters are complex enough to linger in the reader’s mind after the last page is turned. This is a standout performance from a writer who ought to break out in the bestseller ranks with this eighth in a series that keeps getting better. —Jane Adams
Barnes and Noble
Like S. J. Rozan’s previous books, Reflecting the Sky features the disparate, oddly complementary pair of private investigators who first appeared in China Trade: middle-aged Caucasian Bill Smith and his petite, impulsive Chinese-American partner, Lydia Chin. But this time out, Rozan removes her characters from the familiar environs of Manhattan and drops them into the alien society of postcolonial Hong Kong. The result is a complex, satisfying suspense story and a compelling portrait of an exotic corner of the modern world.
An unusual feature of Rozan’s novels is the fact that she alternates narrators from book to book. This time out, Lydia tells the story, which begins when she accepts a seemingly straightforward assignment from Grandfather Gao, resident eminence of New York’s Chinatown. Gao, acting as executor for his recently deceased childhood friend, Wei Yao-shi, wants her to deliver two personal items to Wei’s surviving family in Hong Kong. One is a letter intended for Wei’s younger brother, Wei Ang-ran. The other is a piece of antique jade intended for seven-year-old Wei Hao-han (a.k.a. Harry), the dead man’s grandson.
As the severely jet-lagged detectives arrive at the Wei apartment, trouble begins. The apartment itself appears to have been ransacked, and Harry and his Filipina nursemaid have disappeared. Moments later, an anonymous kidnapper calls, demanding the piece of antique jade in exchange for Harry’s life. Shortly after that, a second, separate kidnapper calls, demanding 20 million Hong Kong dollars. Despite the ambiguity of the situation, and despite their status as strangers in a bewilderingly foreign land, Bill and Lydia join in the attempt to rescue the missing child.
As the investigation proceeds, they encounter a sympathetic American-born policeman, assorted members of the deeply eccentric Wei family, and several hostile members of a powerful Hong Kong triad. In the course of solving the mystery of Harry Wei’s kidnapping, they also uncover the facts behind a lucrative, clandestine smuggling operation, an operation that provides the key to a number of interlocking puzzles.
Reflecting the Sky is the work of a gifted, ambitious writer who brings her own unique flavor to a traditional literary form. Rozan writes with wit, clarity, and precision. Her central narrative is complex and compelling, her characters sharply individualized, her evocation of a colorful, sometimes dangerous culture detailed and convincing. In Bill Smith and Lydia Chin, she has created two exemplary additions to the P.I. pantheon. I think—and hope—we’ll be seeing a good deal more of them. (Bill Sheehan)