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Friday, October 31, 2014

Black Karma: A White Ginger Novel By Thatcher Robinson

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

For a souxun, whose job is to find people, Bai Jiang questions how it is that she is so often alone. Her partner Lee does not share her wonderment, as he declares that Bai is surly, impatient, and sarcastic. The friend that she doesn't need is San Francisco City Police Department Inspector Kelly. He’s an obnoxious, burnt out drunkard intent on hiring Bai to find David Chen. Kelly claims Chen was involved in an undercover police operation that left three dead and a million dollars’ worth of heroin missing. Only the promise of locating Chen before vengeful and possibly lethal police officers has Bai agreeing—a previous case forced her to take two lives, causing her karma to become distinctly unbalanced.

Bai smells something fishy about Kelly's story. Her godfather as the head of a triad so there is no better source for information about China White. Godfather’s unexpected absence means she has to deal with his second in command—her ex, Jason, father of her child, the man she can't get over.

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Jason declares, curiosity is both Bai's strength and her weakness. She learns the seemingly simple assignment to locate Chen is far more complicated than she expected, leading her to the Berkeley University Campus, a fight gym, and a mercenary information broker. Bai has more than enough to distract her—she is raising her teenaged daughter and young girl she rescued on a previous assignment. In one of the few aspects that has Bai bending to traditional Chinese expectations, she finds herself forced to endure blind dates set up by her governess and mother figure.

This action thriller has a surprising amount of humor. Occasionally dark, frequently inappropriate, but always very funny, many laughs come from both Bai and Lee's acerbic commentaries. It’s a wit that that doesn't distract from their lethal fighting skills, strategic planning abilities, or their dedication. Bai's more-than-complicated relationship with Jason delights with their flirtatious banter as it forces her to examine her life and the violent path he has chosen of her. Far more unexpected is the blind date with a billionaire, as it soon transforms from horrifically awkward to tempting, compromising, and truly just horrific.

Image source: Seventh St. Books

The tone shifts dramatically as the violence becomes brutal, the body count rises, and Bai is shown just how truly vulnerable she can be. As connections are made and double crosses and identities revealed, the threads are pulled together in ways few readers could ever predict. As someone with Chinese ancestry, I was immensely pleased to encounter characters that defy the stereotypical depiction of Asians and reveled in Bai's complexity, likability, and extraordinary wit. Bai has a compelling need to rescue and protect the unconventional family she has created, even when she is forced to acknowledge that she is not indestructible. Bai is willing to sacrifice everything for those she loves.

To enter to win a copy of Black Karma simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Karma,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 8, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

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