Thursday, October 30, 2014

ARC Review: Caught Dead by Andrew Lanh

Caught Dead: A Rick Van Lam Mystery
Author: Andrew Lanh
Series: Caught Dead (Book 1)
Publication: Poisoned Pen Press; 1 edition (November 4, 2014)

Description: One of the beautiful Le sisters is dead. Hartford, Connecticut’s small Vietnamese community is stunned. Mary Le Vu, wife of a poor grocery-store owner, is gunned down in a drive-by. Her twin sister insists dutiful Mary “wouldn’t be caught dead” in that drug-infested zone. The police rule it an unlucky accident. Skeptics hire private eye Rick Van Lam to get to the truth. Amerasian Rick—his father an unknown US soldier—is one of the Bui Doi, children of the dust, so often rejected by Vietnamese culture. But his young sidekick, Hank Nguyen, a pureblood Vietnamese, can help Rick navigate the closed world of Little Saigon. Surrounded by close friends—a former-Rockette landlady, his crusty mentor, and his ex-wife Liz—Rick immerses himself in a world that rejects him, but now needs his help. Especially when a second murder strikes in Little Saigon. Rick and Hank delve into the families of the Le sisters, one poor, one very rich, and uncover a world of explosive ethnic tension and sinister criminal activity ranging from Hartford’s exclusive white suburbs to the impoverished inner city. To solve the murders—and bring closure to Mary’s grieving circle—Rick looks to long-buried memories of his Buddhist childhood for the wisdom that will lead him to a murderer. Caught Dead starts a smart, unusual series.

My Thoughts: CAUGHT DEAD was an intriguing story. Rick Van Lam - the Vietnamese son of an unknown American soldier - is a private investigator in Hartford, Connecticut. He specializes in insurance fraud. But when his friend Hank Nguyen comes to him and asks him to investigate the death of Mary Le Vu, one of the beautiful Le sisters, he agrees. Actually, he says that he will talk to some people.

Rick talks to Mary's husband and two children. He talks to Mary's sister Molly, her husband and her two children. He talks to the housekeeper and her successful son. He quickly gets immersed in the various stories of all of these characters. Benny Vu is a poor storekeeper. His son Tommy and daughter Cindy are American and both disappointments. Both with dead end jobs and no ambition for more. Mary's sister Molly married rich American Larry Torcelli and had two children Jon and Kristen. Jon is a perpetual student at Yale and Kristen is a member of the country club set. Another intriguing character is Danny, who is the housekeeper's son, and Larry's protege. Larry sent him to prep school and Harvard and now Danny is a banker. He's the only one of the kids' generation that is a success.

When Molly is killed in the same place as her sister Mary, the investigation intensifies. Rick is such an intriguing character because of his outsider status. He aches to be part of the Vietnamese culture but is looked down on by many because of his mixed heritage. He has become a part of Hank's family and loves his grandmother but Hank's father and grandfather have nothing to do with him. Rick also has an ex-wife that he still has a close relationship with. Other support for Rick is his crusty business partner and his former Rockette landlady.

This story was as much about the Vietnamese immigrants who are trying to keep their culture while living in the US and their Americanized children as it was a mystery. Rick's mixed heritage and his Buddhist upbringing make him an interesting and unusual entry into the ranks of modern detectives. I liked the story and look forward to more by the author.

Favorite Quote:
"Stop looking at the money. Start asking yourself what other kinds of love are there, love that has nothing to do with money. You identify that love, and you will know what happened to Mary and Molly."
I got this eARC from Edelweiss. You can buy your copy here.

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