Saturday, June 09, 2007

Murder in Chinatown

I don't think the weather can get any nicer than this. It's in the high 70s with a steady wind and little humidity. Mia's playing in her swimming pool in the front yard. She's alternating between being a mermaid and a mama duck. Jesse's raking the lawn trying to pick up all the pieces of aluminum left behind by the roofers. I think it's safe to say that we can never walk barefoot on the lawn again. There are so many pieces, and some of them are the size of confetti. I'm sitting on the glider on the front porch between loads of laundry. Tonight we're going to have a bonfire in the new firepit and make s'mores. Tomorrow we're going to try out another church. We're going to the church where Jesse was confirmed, but he and his family left over ten years ago. It has a lot of his family history there: they have up pictures of every confirmation class for the last 70 years or so.

Murder in Chinatown by Victoria Thompson is the latest entry in the Gaslight mystery series. I've fallen in love with Thompson's tales of Knickerbocker turned midwife Sarah Brandt and her ally Detective Frank Malloy, and while this tale doesn't satisfy on every point, it's definitely a good read. Sarah is summoned to Chinatown to attend the birth of Cora Lee, a Irish girl who's married a Chinese businessman. Sarah soon meets the rest of the Lee family with both its Irish and Chinese roots and sees the effects of American xenophobia. Chinese women are not allowed in the US, so Chinese men marry Irish girls who are hoping for something more than life in a tenement and aren't afraid to face the racism they will face with their mixed marriage. When Cora's biracial niece, Angel, disappears, Sarah does her best to investigate without infuriating Malloy who wants her to stay out of trouble. Sarah's newly acquired daughter Catherine encourages her to watch her own safety as well. Maybe that's why this story has a little less teeth than previous entries. Soon, Angel turns up dead, and Malloy is on the case, both to make sure it is solved in New York's climate of ignoring crimes against minorities and to ensure that Sarah stays out of it. Thompson has created considerable heat between her lead characters in previous books, but in this one, only a few glances are exchanged. Perhaps because Sarah and Malloy are thinking so much about each other, they miss the obvious clues to the real killer, or maybe Thompson is making a statement about how judging purely on appearance can lead to tragic consequences. The climax is powerful as both Malloy and Sarah realize what they have missed. The denouement promises interesting things to come for the Gaslight series. I can only hope for a little more romance and a little more excitement.

I'm going to be running a contest starting 18th for a free copy of Janice A. Thompson's Gone With the Groom. More details to come, so keep coming back!

If you checked out my blog between 4 and 7 pm Central time, you'll have seen a different picture. Jesse's grandma came over for a visit, and she remarked on the beauty of the cardinal bush she planted years ago. So I took a picture of her in front of it and couldn't wait to post it.