The Vietnam War continues to cast long shadows.
Even though half-Vietnamese private investigator and part-time college professor Rick van Lam still has nightmares about growing up in an orphanage in Vietnam, his life has materially improved over the years. Although he’s primarily an insurance investigator in Hartford, most of the other cases he has been involved with (No Good to Cry, 2016, etc.) seem to involve Vietnam. So his friends aren’t surprised when he gets interested in Anh Ky Trang, aka Dustin, a bright scholarship student at Farmington College who keeps to himself and is ignored or bullied by other students. Dustin’s favorite professor is activist firebrand Ben Winslow, a friend of Rick’s, so Rick is shocked to see the two men having a belligerent argument. Neither combatant will tell Rick what the fight was about, and when Winslow is shot dead in the parking lot, Dustin is an obvious suspect. Although Rick and his friend Hank try their best, they can’t pry any information out of Dustin and must resort to gossip from the tightknit Vietnamese community. Dustin, who has two older brothers, is an unloved child, born late in his mother’s life during an accident that killed his father. His mother, aunt, and uncle, an aide to Gen. Westmoreland, lived a comfortable life in Vietnam until they were flown out before the collapse. Now the family remains frozen in time, refusing to move on, getting by on welfare while they talk about returning to the good life back home. If Rick and his friends are to clear Dustin, they must discover his secret or find someone else who wanted Winslow dead.
As complex and tricky as Lanh’s other Vietnam-centric mysteries, with a psychological component that makes this installment especially intense.