Like most of us Detective Charlie Chan, Mrs. Chan and their 11 children have sheltered-in-place, weathering the pandemic at thier home on Punchbowl Hill. However, he did manage to send this message via wireless telegraph: World situation worsens [STOP] Humbly suggest you offer faithful followers alternative to only six detective novels of self [STOP] Deepest desire for safety of all [STOP] Thoughts go to ancestors who remind us “after a typhoon there are pears to gather” [STOP] Thank you so much. C. Chan. So, I’m excited to pass on this recent find: Cleveland Author Vivien Chien and her “Noodle Shop Mystery” series. The stories feature 27-year old restaurateur and amateur sleuth Lana Lee, a refreshing, relatively new protagonist to the mystery scene. And better still (OK, I might be a bit biased here) take place in and around Cleveland, Ohio!
While Lana Lee’s family restaurant and the Asia Town shopping plaza are fictitious, they mimic Cleveland’s own Asiatown Center. I’ve recently finished book no. 1, and found myself at some locations in and around “C-Town,” like Li Wah restaurant, Siam Café, and Crocker Park mall among other area establishments she frequents with family and friends. Later series include the original Chinatown location on Rockwell Ave (celebrating 150 years in 2020), Edgewater Park, and Cleveland’s party central, E. 4th Street, giving local readers a more personal experience. Ms. Chien grew up in Parma, Ohio (a suburb just south of Cleveland) in a predominantly Asian atmosphere; as she put it “At home it was all Asian.” Like the author, her protagonist Lana Lee is of mixed-race, Taiwanese and English:
“I don’t know if I could have written a full Asian character,” she says. “I’m not sure if I would have been able to give it the personalized touch. Lana is a combination of people I have known and little pieces of myself.”Chein, Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 8, 2020
Once again (like Author Les Roberts’ Milan Jacovich series) travel the streets of Cleveland and surrounding suburbia, this time experiencing it’s Asian-American community with this fresh, unique crime solver to the C-Town scene. Lana Lee doesn’t know karate, is not good at math, and can’t spell your name in Chinese–and she admits having a problem with donuts (particularly Boston Creams.) But she has a knack for knowing when things don’t quite add-up, sniffing out trouble and landing herself in the middle of a murder investigation!
These “Cozies” are fun reads and will appeal to Baby Boomers, Generation X,Y,Z, and today’s Generation Alphas. Think, 21st Century Nancy Drew with a twist. While set far apart from the Charlie Chan mysteries the stories have an Asian overtone and two same key-ingredients: murder and romance. What could be better!
There are five books in the series to date: Death by Dumpling (March 2018), Dim Sum of All Fears (August 2018), Murder Lo Mein (March 2019), Wonton Terror (August 2019), and Egg Drop Dead (February 2020). Want to know more about this wonderful mystery series, the author and her sleuth Lana Lee? Visit her website vivienchien.com, and check out this article by The Plain Dealer columnist Laura DeMarco: Cleveland mystery writer Vivien Chien shines spotlight on AsiaTown, and Asian-American characters. And good news! Ms. Chien’s sixth book Killer Kung Pao is due out August 2020, and the seventh Fatal Fried Rice in early 2021.
“Occasional amazing occurrence keeps life spicy”Charlie Chan, Behind That Curtain, 1928, Chapter 7