Please welcome back to the blog Jeanne of the Bristol Public Library today with her latest review. For more reading suggestions, make sure you checkout the Bookblog of the Bristol Public Library.
The Noodle Shop Mysteries by Vivien Chien
Monsoon season seemed to be in full swing here earlier this year, which meant walking on the treadmill. Luckily for me, I had picked up the first two books in the Noodle Shop Mysteries by Vivien Chien to start after trudging through a so-so book.
Death by Dumpling introduces the reader to Lana Lee, a young woman recovering from a broken romance and employed—temporarily, she assures the reader—in her family’s Chinese noodle shop. The Ho-Lee Noodle House is situated in Asian Village, a shopping area which boasts stores, restaurants, etc. in exotic East Cleveland. Pressed into making a delivery to Thomas Feng, owner and developer of Asian Village, she drops off his food and heads back to face the lunch crowd. The next thing she knows, Feng is dead, apparently killed by his meal. Everyone knew he has a seafood allergy, so suspicion grows that that his death was a deliberate murder and Peter, the Ho Lee Noodle House chef, is a prime suspect.
Of course there is a handsome detective who seems to have it in for Lana (she did deliver the lunch, after all), a cute pug named Kikko, a best friend, an annoying sister, and a mother who is sure she knows what is best for Lana. But just like a good dish, when the cook is good common ingredients become something delicious. The plot was pretty good, and the characters carried it along nicely. Even when I knew where something was headed, it was still fun to watch unfold. That’s a great start for a first in series book, many of which bog down with introductions and situations.
Encouraged I moved right along into the next book, Dim Sum of All Fears. Set just a few weeks after the first book, Lana finds a new friend in a young woman who has opened a nearby shop with her husband. Even more exciting is that Lana has a promising job interview that should get her out of the noodle shop and back into an office where she thinks she belongs. Alas, her plans are in jeopardy when her parents announce they are going to Taiwan to visit relatives and are leaving the restaurant in Lana’s hands. And then there’s the murder. . . .
The second book was just as much fun. I zipped through it and two more in the series, and am currently reading book five. Lana is a spirited character and I like the relationships built throughout. Her boyfriend, while paying lip service to telling Lana not to investigate, gradually realizes that a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. I like that, while he worries and wants to protect her, he understands he has to accept her as she is. Meghan, her roomie and bestie, is a cheerful sidekick and occasional instigator while her adoring father—well, adores her. Her mother, like many parents, is sure that “Mommy knows best” and is looking for a suitable boyfriend while she encourages her daughter to eat. Lana’s older sister, a law student, is the golden girl of the family and Lana feels that she just doesn’t measure up. These are fun tales well told, even if Lana does rush headlong into situations.
There are no recipes, which doesn’t bother me in the least. However, I never thought I would ever say this about a cozy series but I wish there was more description of the food. I don’t need to know how to make it, but I would like some sensory details. (Pause while I channel Gollum: “Is it tasty, my precious? Is it crunchy?”)
If you need a new cozy, by all means check out Chien’s books. I hope the weather clears up soon because I only have one and a half books to go until I am caught up!
Series in order:
Death by Dumpling
Dim Sum of All Fears
Murder Lo Mein
Egg Drop Dead
Killer Kung Pao
Fatal Fried Rice (due out March 2021)