Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group. http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com/
Lydia Chin might come from a respectable Chinese family but she’s American through and through – born and bred in New York. You can’t take China out of the girl, though, so when Grandfather Gao – the most respected man in China Town – asks her to go to Hong Kong to run an errand for him, Lydia feels she cannot refuse.
There’s no good reason why an American Private Eye should be taking the ashes of Grandfather’s oldest friend to his grandson in Hong Kong. Lydia is asked to take her partner, Bill Smith, along to run a seemingly straightforward errand that shouldn’t require one cop, let alone two.
But Lydia and Bill get to Hong Kong to discover that the errand is not as straightforward as it seems. They arrive at the right address to discover the young boy and his nanny have been kidnapped. The boy’s parents seem most reluctant to involve the Hong Kong police, so Lydia and Bill attempt to investigate. Things get even more complicated when not one but two separate ransom requests arrive.
S.J. Rozan’s series about Lydia Chin and Bill Smith has been running in the USA for years. Published originally in 2001 under the title Reflecting the Sky, this is the first time this novel has been released in the UK, but it’s worth the wait. Lydia Chin is an appealing heroine, and she and Bill are very good foils. As is the usual format in such a series with male and female protagonists, the two as partners have a trust and closeness that inevitably leads to a sexual tension that adds an extra spark to the novel. On one hand you wish they’d get it together – but on the other you hope they won’t, because that will change the dynamic of the relationship and make future books a lot less interesting.
What is particularly well drawn about Lydia is the alienation she feels in both countries where the novel is set. In New York she feels set apart from Western culture because her background and upbringing have instilled in her a need to be loyal to her Chinese ancestry. However, in Hong Kong – her first visit to the country where her family originate – she realises just how American in attitude and outlook she has become, and she still feels like an outsider.
As Lydia and Bill investigate the mystery of the missing boy, the plot twists and turns into ever murkier waters. It is revealed fairly early on that Grandfather Gao’s dearly departed friend had two completely separate families – one in New York and one in Hong Kong – that for years were entirely ignorant of the other’s existence. Further investigation reveals that both the old man’s sons are concealing secrets, but do either of them have compelling motive to resort to kidnap and murder?
Blood Rites is a compelling mystery that keeps you guessing till the end. The Hong Kong backdrop is deftly brought to life, and Lydia Chin is a marvellous character you’ll undoubtedly want to read more about.