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on September 24, 1999
With this sumptuously hard-boiled fifth installment in her acclaimed Lydia Chin-Bill Smith series -- which gracefully alternates between the voice of Lydia, a gutsy PI born and raised in New York's Chinatown, and her off-again, on-again partner, Bill -- Shamus-winning Rozan will no doubt regale her fans.
Hired to find four waiters who've gone missing from the Dragon Garden, a busy dim sum establishment owned by a local Cantonese power player, Lydia gets herself a job as a waitress and goes to work on the joint, all the while offering insight into how the community power structure has been transformed as Fukienese-speaking immigrants have superseded the older Cantonese.
And soon enough Lydia and Bill uncover a mystery -- involving drug-smuggling, alien-smuggling and dissident-smuggling -- that brings that ethnic conflict into sharp focus. All in all, a beautiful and gripping novel, brimming with spice, complexity and suspense. (And food -- enormous, mouth-watering quantities of it.)
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on November 28, 1998
Ever since I began reading S.J. Rozan, I've been convinced that she is secretly Chinese. Being part Chinese myself, I've found that she more than any other author has conveyed to me what it's like to be a young Chinese American living with an exasperating traditional mother and fighting against racism and sexism to be a P.I. Lydia Chin is a wonderfully believable and likeable character, and in this novel she must resist the pressure to be a stereotypical good Chinese girl and give up her search to find four Chinese waiters who are involved the unionization of a Chinese restaurant. I've also been in love with Lydia's partner, Bill Smith, and throughout her five mysteries have rooted for the two of them to get together. Congratulations to Rozan for creating another enjoyable and exciting mystery.
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on February 16, 2000
I have read Rozan's first five novels and they are all very good but this is clearly her best yet. This book has it all: a complex, realistic plot that keeps you guessing until the end, interesting, well-developed characters, great dialogue and a very exciting conclusion. Bill and Lydia are more interesting and entertaining than ever. The thing that impresses me most about this book, however, is simply how well it is written. Rozan's writing is clean and precise and her discriptions of Chinatown are so good I almost felt like I was there. Rozan is now my favorite mystery writer and I hope she writes many, many more.
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on February 20, 2013
S. J. Rozan has done something unique, I believe, in the series she has written. Each book alternates viewpoint; the first starts with Lydia, a young Chinese-American woman embedded in the Chinese community of New York, and the next is from the point of view of Bill Smith, an older American man who has experienced combat and loss, and has a tendency to self-medicate with Scotch. Their cases and their relationship pivot between these two points of view, which keeps them fresher I think. And I feel that Rozan has been able to keep their individual voices true to the very different character of each. Interesting mysteries set mostly in New York, which gives Rozan a huge cast of characters to play with.
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on March 30, 2015
Competent. Occasionally endearing – but only occasionally. The novelty of NY Chinatown helps things along, the plot elements pretty much work together (although the climax is disappointingly silly [spoiler: yet another bad guy inexplicably – except from the point of view of adding a dramatic climax – chooses the worst possible time and location to shoot someone, “Yeah, why don’t I do it in a really public place, and somewhere it’d be hard for me to get away from”] – but it’s a very tiny part of the book). She goes to the trouble of telling us how the PIs use their tricks to gather information, rather than just having a deus ex machina with a computer/informer/luck. Probably the strongest point is the sexual tension between Lydia and Bill, although [spoiler #2] it just happened that the first book I read in this series was written ten years later, and she’s still playing the will they/won’t they card, which strains credulity a bit: these guys aren’t meant to be shy, bumbling teens any more – surely they have some idea about their feelings and how to express them. She’s not shy of a classic trope, but I suppose she’s deliberately writing mass-market fiction, and knows these things are popular for a reason.

Perhaps a bit by the numbers – reminds me a bit of Sue Grafton, another competent writer with a heroine we’re urged to like as much as admire. But, sure, Rozan knows how to write for this genre. Nothing transcendent in expression or humour or insight or action, but no real gaffs either. Probably best enjoyed after reading one of the many second rate crime novels out there.
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on July 20, 1998
Private Investigator Lydia Chin has been hired to find a missing person, who disappeared in the middle of New York's Chinatown. The seemingly simple case begins when she works undercover as a waitress in a Chinatown restaurant, a place where allegedly four illegal aliens vanished without a trace.

However, her inquiries are slowed down by the demographic change in the local community. Apparently, the newly arrived Fukiense-speaking Chinese are more and more taking over from the previous generation Cantonese immigrants. This makes it more difficult on Lydia, who has lived her entire life in the neighborhood, to obtain information. Still, with the help of her professional and growing personal partner Bill Smith, and shockingly (at least to this reviewer) her mother, Lydia plows ahead with her investigation.

This series is more of a movable feast rather than A BITTER FEAST because of the wonderful reoccurring characters and the insiders look into Manh! attan, especially Chinatown. The ethnic foods (not just Chinese) add a fabulous taste to a great who-done-it. Award winning S.J. Rozan has scribed another winning entry to a triumphant mystery series.

Harriet Klausner
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on May 12, 2012
I like this Lydia Chin series of mystery novels by Rozan, but something stops me from truly truly loving them. The books are easy reads, but they don't really grip me. The characters are engaging, and the atmosphere that Rozan creates is very well done, but there just seems to be something missing from the grand scheme. I don't miss the violence and bloodshed found in more hard-boiled mysteries (and contrary to one review I read, this is NOT hard-boiled stuff), but despite all the action taking place within these pages, there is negligible tension or suspense. Keeping up with all the myriad Chinese names this time around was also quite confusing. On the other hand, the strength of this novel, I thought, was the way that Rozan takes the reader into the culture and traditions of New York's Chinatown. The reader ends learning a lot. As usual, Lydia the P.I. is a charming character, and her relationship with "partner" Bill Smith creates another dynamic in the story. Also of interest in this particular book was the smuggling angle. What is being smuggled; people or drugs ... or both? And who exactly is going the smuggling? And what about those gangs? And the organized labor angle? And are federal agents also involved in this mess? It's all quite convoluted. But with all these elements in play I never felt any real tension. This is more of a breezy read than a gripping one. The dialogue more glib than sharp. If all that sounds too negative, don't let it prevent you from reading this book. Overall, this novel is actually quite good, another one that should please fans who've read other books in the series, or even anyone trying out Rozan for the first time.
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on July 29, 1999
S. J. Rozan just gets better with every book! I have read all her books so far and anxiously await the next one! Her writing is so refreshing, she makes you care about the main characters, Lydia Chin and Bill Smith, and you get caught up in what's happening from the very first chapter. Once you find yourself turning the pages, you hate to finish the book so soon but you just can't resist. This series is one of the best to come along in years and long may S. J. Rozan write!
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on May 23, 2012
I enjoy the Lydia Chin and Bill Smith novels, but find them low-key on the tension level. This one, "A Bitter Feast," is set in New York City's Chinatown and involves smuggling: immigrants and maybe drugs. The case begins when Lydia is asked by Peter Lee, a childhood friend, to help locate a Chinese immigrant who has just arrived in the country. The client, who had arrived legally, had been working at a Chinese restaurant and rooming with other Chinese immigrants: but his roomies weren't here legally. Did the client, Chi-Chin Ho, disappear of his own free will? Or was he abducted? And if so, does it have to do with the fact that he belonged to a restaurant worker's union, or to the fact that he knew illegal immigrants? Or . . . for some other reason?

With Lydia and Bill working on the case, the questions are answered, and during the investigation the reader gets treated to a lot of information about Chinese Americans and Chinatown -- all of which help give the book interest and texture.
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on September 13, 1998
Rozan has created a marvelous mystery here. She paints a vivid picture of Chinatown and it's inhabitants as well as creating a most satisfying who-dunit. I love the characters of Lydia and Bill. They play off one another so well. My only complaint is I would like to see them move their personal relationship along a little faster (sorry Ms. Rozan, I am a romantic at heart). If you like your mysteries fast paced and intricate, this is the series for you.
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