Friday, March 31, 2006

SJ Rozan

Most mystery writers take a bit of time to hit their stride. Thanks to some web intel, I started Peter Robinson's wonderful series in the middle. I thought that Dennis Lehane's first was decent, but the rest were stupendous. Ian Rankin is regularly identified as one of the greats, but I've only read the first which didn't do that much for me.

All that is to say it is great news when someone starts strong. James Lee Burke is one of the best in this regard. He came out swinging and hasn't slowed down since*. Another author who has done well for herself is SJ Rozan. I just finished Concourse, the second in the her Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series. The first, China Trade, is quite good as well. So why is she a cut above? For one, having a Chinese-American female as a lead is different. This lets Rozan explore the Chinese American subculture of NYC as well as providing for contrasts with the broader culture. Her characters are well drawn, although I can see the "will they or won't they" relationship between the two leads will be used for many for a book. I like that she changed narrators in the two books. The first is told by Lydia with a little Bill, while the second is told by Bill with a bit of Lydia. She also explores different parts of NYC, and I always like the local color in my mysteries. If you like series mysteries, you can feel safe with these.

*The first amazon review from this book (at this time of writing) is from Berkeley and notes the main characters sympathy for the downtrodden and low tolerance for the powerful. He goes on to state that he finds this rare in mystery. I must say this took me aback. I thought one of the hallmarks of mystery, at least the noirish stuff I like, is the bleak viewpoint on man and society with particular emphasis on the corruption of power. Anyway, seemed odd to me.

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