Claudeline Feng LeBernadin aspires to take over the family business from her late gangster grandfather, Si, in Lariviere's debut.
Biracial Claude’s always stood firmly on the bad side. Born as the heiress-apparent to the kingpin of Sunset Park, Brooklyn's Chinatown, she has known her place in the world invites trouble. She didn't know that her grandpa would leave her so soon, that her best friend, Fingerless Brett, would ditch her for a philosophy book, or that her summer days would be spent investigating Alma Lingonberry. Alma's posters solicit friendship for a very ill girl, but Claude senses a scam. Though she has no proof, Claude draws on her street smarts to catch the phony before anyone else is duped. In her search for the truth, she starts to wonder what really makes someone bad or good. Hard-boiled narrator Claude's world is diverse, bright, and textured, reflecting the best parts of Brooklyn's distinctive charm. Her sharp observations and quick tongue are balanced by her emotional fogginess and the struggles of young adolescence. Claude and the other characters hold attention when the plot stumbles and stalls toward the middle, dominated by Claude's inner monologues. However, a strong and steady unfurling of drama and action recovers the anticlimactic first half and brings the novel to a resounding finish.
Sharp, fun, and optimistic, the novel will have readers rooting for Claude until the end. (Mystery. 8-12)