First Line: "'I am not going to wear a qi-pao to Donna Feng's party, Mother!'"
Summary: Lana Lee, manager of her parents' Chinese restaurant, has recently added a catering service to the business. The summer months can be slow and catering would bring in some extra money. Donna Feng, owner of the shopping plaza where the restaurant is located, is their first catering customer. She is planning a fancy dinner party for her birthday and has hired Lana and her crew to provide the food.
Since her husband was murdered a few months ago, Donna hasn't been her usual, bold self. The night of the party she seems anxious and flustered. Lana notices that Donna has been drinking quite a bit. It all comes to a head when Donna's young teenage twins decide to perform cannonballs into the pool, soaking many of the guests. Donna is embarrassed and angry. She screams at the girls to get out of the pool. Then she begins looking for the nanny, Alice. The girls say they don't know where she is. When Donna locates Alice, she begins yelling at her in front of all the guests. After Alice apologizes, she flees to the safety of the house. Lana has never seen Donna act this way.
After most of the guests have gone, just a few of the people Donna hired are cleaning up. Suddenly there is a scream from the backyard. Alice has been found floating in the pool. Donna is the most likely suspect as her outburst was witnessed by most of the guests at the party. But Lana can't believe Donna would do such a thing. Who else would have a motive to kill Alice? Donna begs Lana to help her figure out who killed Alice.
My thoughts: In the previous book in this series, Donna Feng's husband was killed. Lana helped Donna find the killer, so Donna wants Lana to help her again. The two of them had bonded during this time, so it was nice to see the relationship continue. Most people, including Donna's friends, believe she is the murderer. Lana doesn't believe Donna is capable of murder. Donna has some secrets from her past that she thinks may be catching up with her now. Nobody seems to know much about Alice or her past, so this is an interesting place for Lana to begin investigating. The mystery is good with plenty of suspects and secrets to uncover.
This series is unique in that Lana's family owns a Chinese restaurant located in a shopping plaza called Asia Village. Most of the businesses in this plaza are run by Asian families. I always enjoy the role Asian American culture plays in the books. Lana's family only plays a minor role in this installment, but they meet for dim sum every Sunday which usually leads to laughs. Lana's relationship with Adam continues to develop. I like the way their relationship is slowly developing over the course of the books.
One of the interesting new characters added this time is a Private Investigator named Lydia Shephard. Donna's husband had hired her in the past, so Lana needs to visit her and ask some questions. Because of some of the things in Donna's past, Lana thinks she may be in way over her head and encourages Donna to hire Lydia. I hope we see more of her in future books.
One of the things I appreciate about this series is that the author has found a nice balance between Lana's personal life and the mystery that needs to be solved. The main characters' stories advance, we meet some new characters and solve a good mystery. This was another enjoyable read in the Noodle Shop Mystery series. If you are new to this series, I would recommend starting with the first book, Death By Dumpling.