Can solving a tough case expiate a detective’s private sins?
Years before resigning from the NYPD and moving to Hartford, where he works insurance fraud cases with Jimmy Gadowicz, Rick van Lam spent many of his early years in an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City, where, as an Amerasian, he was treated as a foreign devil by the nuns and the other orphans. When an orphan of even lower caste—his father was black—arrived, Rick, to his everlasting shame, joined in the taunting and beating. Now Rick’s friendship with aspiring State Trooper Hank Nguyen, whose family treats him as another son, has helped him establish a relationship with the Hartford Vietnamese community. When Jimmy is injured and his friend killed after they’re mugged by two street kids, one white, the other Asian, in hoodies, Rick agrees to try to prove that Mike Tran’s son Simon, aka “Saigon Kid,” and his white buddy Frankie weren’t involved. Mike is a half-black Vietnamese who works hard and drives his children to attain success. All have won scholarships to prestigious private schools and strive to achieve the highest grades—all but rebellious Simon, who’s already served time in juvie. Despite Simon’s connection to street gangs, Rick believes him when he claims that he and Frankie are innocent. Meantime, Rick’s ex-wife, Liz, has also become involved in the Tran family drama by mentoring their daughter Hazel, a beauty controlled by a preppie boyfriend who’s both verbally and physically abusive. Determined to get to the bottom of the attacks on a growing number of victims, Rick must delve deeply into the dynamics of a family whose problems bring back unwelcome memories of his childhood.
Lanh (Return to Dust, 2015, etc.) poses an excellent mystery with a surprising twist while exploring the psychological scars inflicted by a war long ago.