Dim Sum of All Fears
by Vivien Chien
Book 2 of A Noodle Shop Mystery
Between running the Ho-Lee and trying to figure out whether the rock-solid Detective Adam Trudeau is actually her boyfriend, Lana knows she shouldn’t pry into the case. But the more she learns about the dead husband, his ex-wives, and all the murky details of the couple’s past, the more Lana thinks that this so-called murder/suicide is a straight-up order of murder. . .
As a whole, Dim Sum of All Fears seemed to have cleaned up a bit of the amateur sleuth thing that was bugging me about the first book. Lana's questioning and snooping actually came off a lot more casual than it did previously--rather than in a short, brusque interrogation style, she managed to just sound like an acquaintance or friend, curiously asking random, innocent questions.
Unfortunately, as a whole, this book was actually much more boring than the previous one. And I'm not sure if that was my problem, or the book's. I couldn't quite pay attention to much of the story, and probably couldn't even recall how the investigating went. In fact, at times it didn't even really seem like there was much of a case going on, as it seemed kind of delegated to the background. Really, everything about this book felt like it got delegated into the background: the Chinese New Year's upcoming festivities, the romance with Detective Trudeau, Lana's taking over of her parents' noodle shop...
In a way, it felt like there were too many story tangents going on with no real focus. I kept finding myself thinking that I wished we could see more about the Chinese New Year since it's such a big part of Asian culture. On the one hand, I love that Lana is being portrayed in such an Asian-American way--rather than deliberately making her seem or feel more Asian, she simply comes off as your average Asian-American girl; a half-Taiwanese, half-English, born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, who acts no different than any other average American girl, save for the references to her Asian background. And I love that!
But on the other hand, this cozy mystery is set in a very Asian, Asia Village, where you DO notice that a lot of older generation Chinese and Taiwanese are pretty prominent members. I guess that I would have expected more ado about the Chinese New Year, even if Lana's own parents are currently out of the country. I mean, I'm a rather more American Asian-American, but Chinese New Year is still a pretty big deal!
Aside from that, I was also hoping to see more of a development to the romance between Lana and Detective Trudeau, but the two had zero chemistry. And it was a bit of an eye roller that people were constantly telling Lana that Detective Trudeau is "crazy about her." I mean, I don't blame Lana for having doubts because I don't see it either. I don't necessarily need romance for a book to be good, but if you're going to include romance, you should at least make it a believable one--it's not even a slow burn. There is no burn.
And then the conflict at the beginning wherein Lana gives up the chance at a job interview to help her parents run their restaurant was never brought up again. So we're left with some open-ended deal where everyone, except for some of Lana's select friends, continuing to think that she hasn't gotten her butt in gear to look for another job, and that she's just being a lazy layabout claiming to have stuff to do. And it was irritating as heck that her sister kept throwing that in her face. And, even though this is besides the point, I got a little irked that everyone kept telling Lana what seems more like "her type of job."
Has anyone bothered to ask Lana what she actually wants to do? And actually cared to listen to her rather than either belittling her, or telling her she's wrong? About what she wants with her own life? It's also quite irksome that everyone feels like they have the right to expect Lana to move on in her romantic life as well and find a new, nice boyfriend. And I get that mothers (especially Asian mothers) are all about their daughter finding a nice man and getting married and starting a family, but the insinuation that the only way Lana will be happy is if she finds a nice man and gets married can start grating after a while.
And I know that the bickering between Anna May and Lana was supposed to come off cute, but I was really getting irritated with Anna May. Because even though Lana's narrative made it seem like the two bickered regularly, what I was seeing was that Anna May was swooping in and belittling Lana every chance she got. None of the bickering scenes were started by Lana herself, despite what the narrative or others seem to claim. I also didn't get why Anna May was so pissed off at Lana about her parents leaving her in charge of the restaurant--it's not like Anna May really had the time to focus on being in charge herself.
And even in spite of all this... I still want to read the next book. Because I like Lana and I love Megan, and I love them as a duo. And I'm hoping that the mystery aspect of the books will continue to improve, even if slightly.
And I'm hoping for a new love interest. Detective Trudeau does nothing for me.
And I was also hoping for a bit of development in Lana's own career choices, which may involve her parents' restaurant. There was something that had been brought up in the first book that mentioned Lana maybe experimenting with food services from a cooking stand point. That maybe, aside from just being there to work her shift and make a little extra cash to pay bills and rent, she might get involved with more of the food prep... which I hope will spiral into her maybe helping to expand the restaurant's menu or creating new, fun, menu items... or something like that.
Please bring that small, almost insignificant recommendation to Lana from the first book back to the surface. Even if just for a small glimpse at a possibility.