Private eye Rich Van Lam is a man with no country and two countries. Being the son of a Vietnamese woman and a U.S. soldier living in Hartford, Connecticut isn’t easy. He isn’t always accepted by the Americans, not even the father he has never met. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t even know his father’s name.
The large Vietnamese community shuns him, distrustful of the mixed race man who they feel has forgotten his heritage and is considered “one of the dust” to them. The forgotten offspring the military left in Vietnam when they came home from the war.
But now they are calling him to help solve the murder of one of the most loved members of the Vietnamese community. Mary Le Vu is found dead in an area that no person, unless they are looking for a drug deal or hooker would be caught dead. Yet that is exactly where Mary is murdered.
Van Lam and his partner Hank Nguyen begin the difficult job of talking to families and friends that don’t fully trust either man. The only way they are getting any information is through the doors Nguyen can open due to the fact he is full-blooded Vietnamese.
Just when the case starts to move forward, Mary’s sister is murdered. Is this a family vendetta? The same person must be responsible for these deaths, but there aren’t many connections between the women. Sure, they spend time together, tell each other secrets and obviously are related. But one sister is poor, the other is rich. One leads a life of service, the other “hosts” fundraisers. Both have children that are troubled at best, worst case they might be criminal. More questions arise the deeper the PIs dig.
The twists and turns kept me reading late into the night to see what else was going to happen. The struggle Van Lam has trying to establish his identity within the Vietnamese community is both heartwarming and sad. Lanh brings this conflict into the story with beautifully haunting prose, “…the man would never like me, I knew, blaming me for the death of his serene life in the old homeland…”.
I wanted to read this book quickly because the mystery intrigued me, but the beauty of the words made me slow down to enjoy it more. I really enjoyed Lanh’s easy style of writing that tells the reader volumes with his perfectly chosen narrative. Both Van Lam and Nguyen are likeable, fallible characters that I can’t wait to read about again.
Caught Dead is the first book in this series. The second of the series, Return to Dust has been added to my reading list.
Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman
DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.