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28 June 2014

Library Limelights 59

A Half-Yearly INDEX to 2014 book reviews has been posted (see PAGES, above) alphabetical by author.

Mingmei Yip. Song of the Silk Road. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2011.
Lily Lin is a crazy lady―free-spirited, kind-hearted, ├╝ber romantic, mildly iconoclastic, and totally charming. As a budding novelist living hand-to-mouth in Manhattan, a mysterious opportunity comes her way to receive three million dollars. All she has to do is fly to China and travel part of the old Silk Road ... with certain odd conditions to fulfill! While doing so, Lily learns more of her dormant heritage and her own feelings. Among her many adventures she finds: herbal medicine; an isolated monastery; an ancient jade pendant; scorpion soup; the hanging-upside-down-lotus position; a mysterious ivory bracelet; the blind storyteller; an astounding toilet; and the prison mother. Not necessarily in that order.

Attracting men wherever she goes, Lily dallies but never loses sight of her goal. One companion even manages to stay the course in the hazardous Taklamakan desert, also known as Go-In-But-Never-Come-Out. Written in the first person, life with Lily is immensely entertaining.

Lily negotiates a driver:
After some bickering we settled at four hundred. 
Since he worked at this international hotel, I figured he would not jeopardize his job by robbing or killing me. But it never hurt to be extra cautious. "Are you married? Any children?"
He laughed a hearty belly laugh. "Ha, my boy has just turned one year old." Then he fished a photo from his pocket and thrust it under my eyes. A chubby baby held by a young woman stared back at me, smiling. 
"Very cute, and your wife is very pretty." I smiled, handing the photo of the two treasures back to its owner. 
Good, a family man. I should be in safe hands. (50-51)

Lily's yin needs replenishing:
He looked at me intensely, probably trying to figure out what kind of herbs I needed. As he towered over me, I examined this Uyghur man that I'd accidentally seen in the graveyard, noting his high cheekbones, hazel eyes, tea-laced-with-milk hair, and lined face. A mystery man. A sad man. I sensed that standing in front of me was a soul suffering from something beyond my experience and understanding. 
Sitting down, he said in his soothing bass voice, "Put your hand on the counter and let me take your pulse." 
The glass felt cool on my skin. The herbalist, with acute concentration, pressed together his index, middle, and ring fingers on my wrist.The creases on his forehead read like abstruse philosophical truths etched in an esoteric language waiting to be deciphered. His eyes, though sad, also emanated strong yang energy. However, what really caught my attention and made my heart ache were his hands—large, brown, leathered, scarred. His fingers were thick, calloused, tipped with nails lined with faint dark ridges. What had this man done with those hands—just collecting herbs on the mountain, or digging graves to house ghosts? (74)


Sean Slater. The Survivor. Toronto, Simon & Schuster Canada, 2011.
Sean Slater is the pseudonym for a Vancouver cop who packs a lot of mixed elements into his first novel: high school murders, an arrogant deputy chief, girlfriend and family conflict, teenage angst, Eastside gangs, Macau triads, and Cambodian refugees. Most of it works well, although the teen dialogue doesn't always ring true. Detective Jacob Striker takes the lead investigating the fast-paced events during and following the inexplicable mass shooting at his daughter's school. Only Striker is able to decipher a few faint clues to avoid multiple dead ends in hot pursuit of the killers. And their underlying motivation. Plenty of suspense here until the end.

Full of Vancouver and Lower Mainland references, it's always good to welcome new Canadian crime writing talent. That doesn't mean Slater is on a par—in my opinion, of course—with other relative newcomers like Peggy Blair (The Beggar's Opera, The Poisoned Pawn) or Brent Pilkey (Secret Rage and earlier books) whose characters and dialogue I find more sympathetic. Striker's gut reactions to the mayhem sometimes seem over-wrought, a bit repetitious, contrasted with his resentment at his female partner's seemingly unaffected professional manner. The prose can use some polishing, but I'm looking forward to more in the series; two newer books are already published (Snakes and Ladders, The Guilty).

New Word: gangologist (!) (385)

Striker's nemesis:
Moments later, Deputy Chief Laroche strutted in from the north. He marched stoically up to the crime scene tape, his pressed hat held gently in both hands, rim down ‒ just the way Striker was sure he'd practised in front of the mirror a hundred times. The lineless perfection of Laroche's hair told anyone who cared to notice that he never wore the damn hat. It was just a necessary prop, a part of the intended image. 
Striker listened to the beginning of the speech, the Deputy's voice dripping with cosmetic grief, his words laced with heavy pre-planned pauses, and Striker wondered if the man had taken the same long pauses while sucking back his Starbucks sandwich in the car. (48)

Partner speaks to Striker:
"Can I finish a sentence?" 
"Who's stopping you?" 
"You are, and you'd know that if you listened to yourself as much as you want other people to." She took in a deep breath, then continued, "All I'm saying is, yes, the man has flaws. We all do. But for some reason, you've got it in for him. You provoke him. Like you did back at the school." 
"Back at the school?" 
"Yes." 
"I provoked him?" 
"You were a bit harsh." 
"He wanted my gun." 
"He has a right to it, Jacob. A legal right. Hell, an obligation. And you challenged him on it, right in front of everyone. You gave him nowhere to go, no way out. Like you always do with anyone who so much as blocks your way." (125)

Watching the surveillance camera tape:
More than before, It took Striker back to the moment, and his heart pounded heavily in his chest; the muscles of his hands twitched like they wanted to reach for his gun. 
He glanced over at Felicia, and saw the machine-like calmness of her features. Her lack of an emotional response irritated him. (261)

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