Death By Dumpling (A Noodle Shop Mystery #1)
Author: Vivien Chien
Publisher: St. Martin's (2018)
Genre: Cozy Mystery
"You know in the movies where someone says, 'You can't fire me, I quit!' . . . maybe don't do that in real life. Unless you don't mind working as a server in your parents' Chinese restaurant for the rest of your life."
After that little incident, finding a job to pay the rent wasn't as easy as Lana Lee thought it would be. Working as a server in her parents' Chinese restaurant does pay the rent, but she would rather be doing something that uses her college education. On the particular day that we meet Lana, she is asked by the cook to take a lunch order down to Mr. Feng's office. Mr. Feng is owner of the charming plaza, Asia Village, where her parents' restaurant is located. On most days, Peter, the cook, takes Mr. Feng's order to him. But today, Peter was too busy. As she approaches Mr. Feng's office, Lana hears yelling coming from inside. She hesitates to open the door and then finally decides she can't stand out here all day waiting for the argument to stop. When she opens the door, she sees that it is Kimmy Tran, a woman her age, who is arguing with Mr. Feng. The Tran family runs another shop in the plaza and Lana and Kimmy grew up together. Kimmy proceeds to tell Lana that Mr. Feng is going to raise the rent. Kimmy is clearly upset about this, but storms out as Lana comes in. Lana makes small talk with Mr. Feng and delivers his lunch order and then returns to the restaurant.
Just after the lunch rush that day, Lana notices her mother's friend, Esther, running toward the restaurant. When she arrives she asks for Lana's mother and hurries past Lana screaming for her mother. It turns out Mr. Feng has been found dead in his office. It is discovered that Mr. Feng died from a reaction to shellfish. But everyone at the plaza knows that Mr. Feng is highly allergic to shellfish. Peter always makes his lunch order and takes the utmost care to prepare it in a non-contaminated pan. The top two suspects are Peter and Lana. Lana knows she didn't give Mr. Feng the wrong order, in fact, she doesn't even know what was in the bag. But Peter would never, could never do something like that. Could he?
I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with Lana Lee, her family and friends. I love the author's writing style. She includes plenty of interesting details, without being too long-winded or flowery. And she is funny without being sarcastic or jaded. Here is a description of Lana's dad from the book:
"He is extremely white. There's no two ways around it. Sometimes, he reminds me of those posters you see in a bank of some guy shaking hands with overly excited homeowners. Which isn't too far from reality because he's a Realtor. He even comes with his own million-dollar smile and crisp, well-fitted suit."
Lana has a great relationship with both of her parents and her sister. The other shop owners seem like family as well. Her roommate Megan always has her back and is often trying to encourage her to get out of the house and go on a date. Detective Trudeau is handsome and seems to be constantly frustrated with Lana because she won't stay out of the investigation.
The mystery kept me guessing until almost the end. There were plenty of secrets surrounding the people at Asia Village, which made for a lot of puzzle pieces to fit together. I liked how Lana finally got a notebook and began recording what she learned each day. It was fun to follow along with her. In the end, the mystery is solved and everything is explained. Very satisfying.
I'm looking forward to reading the next installment, Dim Sum of All Fears. If you are looking for a solid mystery with some great characters, a little humor and Asian flair, I recommend this book.