S.J. Rozan


A Bitter Feast

(Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series)


Competent. Occasionally endearing – but only occasionally. The novelty of NY Chinatown helps things along, the plot elements pretty much work together (although the climax is disappointingly silly [spoiler: yet another bad guy inexplicably – except from the point of view of adding a dramatic climax – chooses the worst possible time and location to shoot someone, “Yeah, why don’t I do it in a really public place, and somewhere it’d be hard for me to get away from”] – but it’s a very tiny part of the book). She goes to the trouble of telling us how the PIs use their tricks to gather information, rather than just having a deus ex machina with a computer/informer/luck. Probably the strongest point is the sexual tension between Lydia and Bill, although [spoiler #2] it just happened that the first book I read in this series was written ten years later, and she’s still playing the will they/won’t they card, which strains credulity a bit: these guys aren’t meant to be shy, bumbling teens any more – surely they have some idea about their feelings and how to express them. She’s not shy of a classic trope, but I suppose she’s deliberately writing mass-market fiction, and knows these things are popular for a reason.


Perhaps a bit by the numbers – reminds me a bit of Sue Grafton, another competent writer with a heroine we’re urged to like as much as admire. But, sure, Rozan knows how to write for this genre. Nothing transcendent in expression or humour or insight or action, but no real gaffs either. Probably best enjoyed after reading one of the many second rate crime novels out there.


March 2015