Brackmann resurrects her war-weary heroine Ellie McEnroe and sets her off in a new adventure in this follow-up to her first novel (Rock Paper Tiger, 2010).
Ellie, or Yili, as she is known in China, represents a major Chinese artist, but she has to walk a careful and very thin line to avoid ending up the focal point of the Chinese police, who are very interested in both that artist and his activities. When she’s picked up for questioning and comes away convinced that it’s time for them to lay low, she sees the opportunity to leave town and do a friend a favor at the same time. If only she didn’t have to drag her mother and her mom’s latest boyfriend, a nice, older Chinese guy named Andy, with her, it might be perfect, but alas, mom is visiting China and shows no inclination of returning home to the U.S. So when Doug, whom she knows as Dog, asks her to find his brother, Jason, Ellie, mom and Andy set off to find him. Andy and mom keep busy seeing the sights, but Ellie, who left Iraq with a badly injured leg, starts inquiring about the missing Jason and discovers that Dog’s brother is a lot more than he seems at first. After being followed, attacked and interrogated, Ellie finds herself getting closer to the truth, but the real question is: How much of it does she really want to know? Brackmann’s easy familiarity with everyday life in China lends a fascinating multiculturalism to her writing. Nods to local cuisine, Chinese slang and dress help paint a vivid picture of that country. What the story lacks is focus; most of the time that Ellie is looking for Jason, she seems to be wandering around without a specific goal.
Brackmann’s likable protagonist always entertains, but the plot lacks cohesiveness.