The Quest for Asian Sin

An unyielding private investigator who unravels a mystery, and takes out criminal organizations in the interim.

In this debut thriller, a retired sheriff’s search for a missing ex-porn star leads to corrupt individuals with their hands in all sorts of illicit deeds—including murder.

Former cop Lt. Jack Conner only got his private eye license on the advice of lawyers who’d hired him for legal investigations. But he puts it to use when, while vacationing in San Diego, he spots an article on the unexplained disappearance of former porn star Asian Sin. Named Sara Jones by her adoptive parents, the missing woman sparks a memory of Xiu Tang, a Chinese medical student whom years ago teenaged Jack had loved. He’s determined to find Asian, first on his own but later with allies he steadily gathers, like adult bookstore owner Bill Parker, sharing Jack’s belief that Asian didn’t vanish willingly. Jack will need all the help he can get, as his probe turns up various criminal activities, from kidnappings to drug running. It’s perhaps no surprise when a few thugs rough him up, because his case threatens to expose any number of baddies. At the same time, he may have something for Keeley Nu, a lawyer for the adult film company that had signed Asian. He is, however, conflicted, a divorcé who falls in love too quickly but can’t quite commit as strongly to a woman as he does to investigative work. Lemley’s book has the earmarks of a detective story; Jack even gets a paycheck, eventually signing an agreement with Asian’s attorney, Dallas Xiao Xu, to protect their mutual exchange of information. But while there’s mystery and plenty of twists (especially character links), there are likewise signs of espionage. Jack faces gangsters, conducts surveillance outside the United States, and occasionally dodges bullets with capable pals, most notably Dan, Dallas’ driver who’s more than he seems. Tracking down Asian, though, is the main plot and never falters, and despite the bevy of bad guys and ensuing false leads (concerning the missing woman), the tale’s not convoluted. Jack’s not the most likable protagonist: he beds a few women, notwithstanding his apparent love for Keeley. Such a flaw makes him engrossing, and he furthermore acknowledges his womanizing, but it certainly doesn’t earn him sympathy.

An unyielding private investigator who unravels a mystery, and takes out criminal organizations in the interim.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5245-2568-2

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2016


Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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