The Shanghai Moon (The Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Novels)
What's a girl to do when, in spite of being a total badass, she just can't make her mother happy? Such is the predicament of Lydia Chin, a tough woman in her late twenties from New York's Chinatown who, much to her mom's chagrin, has grown up to be a private investigator. Along with her partner, Bill Smith, a stoic Navy veteran, Lydia solves cases all over the five boroughs. The crowds of the city, the fruit stands, the Chinese bakeries, Lydia's tea preferences and Bill's coffee addiction all combine to make New York as much a character as any of the humans who populate the pages of these novels.
One of the most fascinating is ninth book, The Shanghai Moon, which concerns a necklace belonging to a young female Jewish refugee, Rosalie Gilder, who married the Oxford-educated aristocrat Chen Kai-Rong after fleeing the Nazis in Austria. When the rest of Rosalie's jewelry is found (and then stolen by a Chinese official in Shanghai), Lydia is hired to track down the missing gems. As in the other books in the series, the complexity of the ending is what makes the story so intriguing. For Lydia and Bill, detection isn't about deductions made by geniuses. They're a couple of clever people, living in one of the world's biggest cities, trying to solve intricate crimes. They make mistakes, they face setbacks, they do a ton of legwork, and when they solve a case, the solutions feel appropriate, not simplistic. Perhaps this is why Lydia’s mother—in spite of her near-constant exhortations to Lydia that she should get a real job, find a nice boy to marry, and finally stop hanging out with Bill—makes the occasional phone call to help with a case, as if she, like all of us at home reading, realizes what a tremendously brilliant detective her daughter is. —Nathalie Gorman