Series: Noodle Shop Mystery #5
Published by St Martin's Paperbacks on February 25, 2020
Genres: Cozy Mystery
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The Ho-Lee Noodle House takes its business to the next level―only to end up in hot water.
It was supposed to be a fancy, intimate dinner party by the pool. Instead, Lana Lee’s first-ever catering event turns into full-course madness when a domestic worker is found dead. Is the party’s host Donna Feng, the sweet-and-sour owner of the Asia Village shopping plaza where Ho-Lee is situated, somehow to blame? That’s what Lana―whose plate is already plenty full with running the restaurant, pleasing her often-disapproving mother, and fretting over her occasionally-serious boyfriend Detective Adam Trudeau―must find out.
Before the police arrived at the crime scene, Donna had entrusted an odd piece of evidence to Lana: a thumb drive shaped like a terra-cotta soldier. Now it’s up to Lana to lead her own investigation, digitally and in real life, into a world of secrets involving Donna’s earlier life in China, whether the victim had a dark agenda, and if the killer is still out there . . . and plans to strike again.
I actually don’t read many foodie cozy mysteries, but the Noodle Shop Mysteries are an exception. First, I do love Chinese restaurant food. When I was pregnant, we ate at the same Chinese restaurant in the mall that the woman who owned it gave us a baby present. Second, it takes place in Cleveland, Ohio, and I always enjoy it when a story is set somewhere I’ve been and Amber’s college is about 30 minutes away. Third, Lana’s a good character and her family is a hoot.
Lana’s first catering job is going well – until the murder of course. Donna Feng, a long-time friend of the Lee family, is clearly the most likely suspect to have killed her nanny, but she asks Lana to help prove her innocence by figuring out who the killer actually was. This is Lana’s fifth “investigation” but this time she may be in over her head. I do think this would work as a stand-alone, but I’ve been reading the series since the beginning.
There are several possibilities and the clues are well-done; they make sense with the final whodunnit but they also keep the spotlight shining on different suspects. This time around, Lana joins forces with a local private investigator who I liked. That’s one thing about this series, people do for the most part take Lana seriously. The PI agrees to let Lana tag along and help. Adam, Lana’s boyfriend, worries about her safety, but is never over-bearing or dismissive. But once again, the boyfriend is a detective. Yes, it makes it easier on the amateur sleuth but it’s a bit overused. And why he keeps putting up with her lying to him is beyond me. If she would just have told him where she was going she would end up in less danger, because (once again) she makes an impulsive decision and ends up putting her life in danger.
I enjoy the glimpses into the upper-class Chinese American society and I imagine it is as interconnected as it seems here, especially in a city like Cleveland. It’s also nice that the sleuth actually does have to take care of her real job, even during her investigations. She has to make sure the restaurant is running and get someone to cover shifts she misses.
As far as cozy mysteries go, this is a fun one. It follows all the “rules” but has its own outlook and shows a culture we don’t usually see in this genre. But it always makes me want to go out for Chinese.
If you follow the author on facebook, she recently shared some photos and videos from Chinese New Year which I thought were really neat.