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by Thatcher Robinson
Seventh Street Books, October 2013
293 pages
ISBN: 1616148179

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In this engaging new series, the focus is on Bai Jiang, single mother and souxon (or "people finder") whose deadly skills are called into question by her own Buddhist beliefs. When a young girl goes missing in San Francisco's Chinatown, Jiang is convinced to search for her despite the lack of interest on the part of her own family, it appears. The trail soon leads to gang activity (triads), sex trafficking, even murder.

In the process of finding the girl, however, it soon becomes apparent that Jiang will need some help. She calls upon her trusted friend Lee, who often helps save Bai from her own impulsive actions, as well as

her daughter's father, Jason, a gang kingpin with connections that can help Bai make her way through the criminal underworld.

There's just one problem. Her relationship with Jason is complicated. As much as she tries to separate herself from his criminal enterprise, he is still the love of Bai's life. Complicating the search for the missing girl is also a family crisis: a confrontation between her daughter and some classmates at her private school.

When Jiang follows the lead on the missing girl to Canada, it soon becomes apparent that Bai Jiang's own life appears to be in danger. Just who is trying to kill her and why? Is it related to the girl or to a different matter altogether? What's the story behind the new security help she's hired to protect her daughter? It becomes increasingly clear that things are far more complex than it first seemed.

Thatcher Robinson knows how to apply ancient wisdom to a very modern setting and ends up with a delightful new series that readers will want to read more of. A signature touch of the book is that each chapter is headed by an entertaining Chinese proverb that fits with the theme of the action therein.

Readers will also enjoy the dark humor that seasons this novel. Robinson has created a compelling new detective in the character of Bai Jiang - a strong, if complicated, female lead.

Christine Zibas is a freelance writer and former director of publications for a Chicago nonprofit.

Reviewed by Christine Zibas, October 2013

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