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THE FIRST EXCELLENCE by Donna Carrick

THE FIRST EXCELLENCE

: Fa-ling¿s Map

By Donna Carrick

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4392-5393-9

A complex mystery with multiple plots and a host of intriguing characters.

When Fa-ling was a child in Guangxi, China, her birth mother–fearful that her ruthless mother-in-law would kill Fa-ling and her newborn sister–abandoned the girls on a park bench before committing suicide. Fa-ling and her sister Daphne lived at a wretched orphanage where Fa-ling tolerated sexual abuse in an unspoken trade for extra food for her and Daphne. Readers later discover that their father’s heart was broken by their disappearance, and though he was too weak to stand up to his insufferable mother, he continued to search for them unbeknownst to Fa-ling and Daphne. Forward to the present, when 21-year-old Fa-ling is living with her loving adoptive family in Canada, but feeling lost, tentative and confused about her future. Determined to resolve her feelings by revisiting her past, she returns to China. For safety reasons, she doesn’t go alone, but travels with a tour guide and a group of five couples who ironically are going to China to adopt a child. Soon after their arrival, a gruesome murder occurs at their hotel and Fa-ling unknowingly stumbles into a three-way plot involving child kidnapping, organ theft, political intrigue and government coverups. Enter detectives Wang and Cheng, two wonderfully rendered characters who must toe the tenuous line between uncovering the truth and risking reprisal from governmental higher-ups. The other compelling storylines quickly unfold, and Carrick deftly and seamlessly weaves these plots together. As with many other mysteries, there’s a lengthy list of characters and some readers may feel confused by the array. Though there are some lovely descriptions, there are also some jarring metaphors and similes which disrupt the narrative flow–“Her voice, never soothing at the best of times, ripped through the humid afternoon with the intensity of a chicken being plucked” and “The water shimmered, whispering like a friend in a new dress.” Still, the conclusion is pleasantly unpredictable.

Enjoyably complicated plots with some well-depicted characters.