Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Death by Dumpling

Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien (2018)

After dramatically quitting her job, Lane Lee finds herself waiting tables at Ho-Lee Noodle House, her parents' restaurant in Asia Village. One day she makes a delivery of dumplings to Mr. Feng, owner of the plaza, and later he is found dead. Everyone at Ho-Lee Noodle House knew about his shrimp allergy and there's no way they'd make such a deadly mistake. All eyes point to Ho-Lee's cook, Peter, but Lana knows he would never intentionally kill anyone. As the investigation heats up, Lana and her roommate Megan decide to do some investigating of their own.

I heard about this on the Get Booked podcast from Book Riot, a podcast that I really didn't need to know about because it is only informing me about more and more books that I need to read. But I heard this episode at the perfect time - I had gone from Midnight in Chernobyl to Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen and needed a light, fun palate cleanser.

Lana was in a bad place when the story opens, having come through a bad breakup from which she has clearly not yet recovered, plus more recently quitting her job. We never get details about the old job or why she quit, just that it was sudden and dramatic and working in a restaurant is a big change from whatever she was doing. She was 27 but felt younger to me, a little naive. But I liked how she made this murder case into a project, determined to find out who killed this person she liked so much. She was so organized, and would write out all the facts in her notebook to lay it all out and make sure she had everything right before going any further. She also made sure her list of suspects was thorough and logical, even if it meant including people she liked and wanted to think wouldn't murder anyone. She really cared about all of the people involved. She was a fun character too; she harbored a deep and abiding love for doughnuts. And once after the murder when the press tried to get her attention she pretended she couldn't speak English. There's also a minor romance plotline going on in the background too, which I quite liked.

The writing isn't perfect. The dialogue has plenty of moments that don't feel natural, and there were even a few errors that a proofreader should have caught. But when all was said and done, those are pretty insignificant. Chien has created a great storyline with interesting characters and enough red herrings that I was kept guessing throughout the novel. It's a fun, quick read!

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