Every time Captain Pete says “Bless their hearts” you can hear his insincerity from here to the Kremlin.

The twelfth book in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series and one of the best so far. A fish out of water/stranger in a strange land story, with PI’s Lydia Chin and Bill Smith being hired (sort of) by Lydia’s mother to go to the aid of a relative in Mississippi who has been arrested for murdering his father. Setting aside for the moment that until this second Lydia didn’t know she even had relatives in Mississippi, the fact that Lydia’s mom would respect Lydia’s chosen profession long enough to task her daughter with this Herculean effort and tell her take Bill (referred to series-long by Mom as the White Baboon) along is enough to give any fan whiplash, let alone Lydia herself.

Lydia’s mom is not to be denied so off to the Mississippi Delta they go, there to meet Captain Pete, a delightful character, Lydia’s shirttail cousin and the accused’s uncle, who greets them with the news that, oops, Jefferson, the accused, has broken out of jail. His lawyer is unfriendly and unhelpful, the local cops are offering free rides to the airport for a quick return trip to New York, the local meth dealers are looking for Jefferson, too, and no one they meet is entirely who or what they seem. Is this about drugs? Gambling online and off? Police corruption? Political shenanigans? It’s about all those things and so much more, but mostly this story all comes down to family. Family is the thing at the heart of the plot and the solution to both murders, and involves a fascinating case study of the history of Chinese Americans in, yes, that most unlikely of places, the American South. Rozan’s craft makes that last story as entertaining as it is informative, and you’ll see what she did there with the title.

Rozan does a fabulous job with the southern accent, relying on phraseology rather than diacritics and contractions, that rings absolutely true, especially in that heart-wrenching scene with Lunetta. Every time Captain Pete says “Bless their hearts” you can hear his insincerity from here to the Kremlin. We get to see Lydia in her preferred kickass mode and at her interrogative best, and the entire narrative is bookended by Lydia and Bill’s relationship and a lovely final scene. Recommended.

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Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

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