Did she jump or was she pushed? That’s what Amerasian college instructor/detective Rick Van Lam’s client wants to know.
Although the Connecticut detective agency in which Rick (Caught Dead, 2014) is a partner deals mostly with insurance companies, he occasionally takes outside cases. He barely knows Karen Corcoran, who wants to hire him, but her recently deceased aunt, Marta Kowalski, was his cleaning lady, so he agrees to investigate her death, which the police have dismissed as suicide. Well-known in Farmington, Marta was an argumentative, often grumpy, deeply religious Catholic who nevertheless flirted with men, frequented bars, and took trips to Vegas. Although she appears to have leaped from a bridge, Karen is convinced she was murdered. Rick gets some help from his former student Hank Nguyen, whose Vietnamese-immigrant family has all but adopted Rick, who spent his early years in an orphanage in Ho Chi Minh City. Although Rick is still scorned by some Vietnamese for being of mixed race, Hank’s family provides an entry into the community. He learns that one of the people Marta fought with was a refugee who did lawn care for Joshua Jennings, a patrician college professor Marta dreamed of marrying. It might seem that Jennings’ death and the sale of his ancient house, which Marta adored, pushed her over the edge. The more Rick digs into her surprisingly complicated life, however, the more convinced he grows that she was murdered.
Lanh delves into the problems facing many in the Vietnamese community while providing a tantalizing look at the way a woman's obsessions led to her death.