As the first of SJ Rozan's Lydia Chin/Bill Smith private investigations, we are given a good view of Lydia's life. We are also introduced to her mother and two of her four brothers, as well as another old friend who is a NYPD detective. The other minor characters of the story all appear to be real people and not just 'cut-outs from an a charlie chan movie'. Rozan shows a knack for characterizing Chinatown's denizens, apothecaries, shops and food. Lydia is an ABC, and american-born chinese, and as such has the same cultural problems of all first generation americans. Coming from a closed, respect conscious society, where women are meant to be wives, she is fighting an uphill battle to be her 'own' woman.
Lydia, is hired by the Chinatown Pride museum to recover stolen antique export porcelains. During her investigation she confronts the leaders of rival Chinatown gangs in hopes of flushing out the robbers. With information gleaned from a meek scholar who habitually steals tiny porcelains from prominent collections, Lydia discovers an antiquities- laundering business that crosses all socioeconomic strata. More than the theft, it's the two murders that accompany her investigation that both Lydia the most.
Her sidekick, full-time PI Bill Smith, provides a minor element of sexual tension; the resolution of the murders (but not the crime) depend on a scheme in which Lydia sets herself up to be attacked by a hit man and to be rescued by the NYPD. It almost works out, and the involvement of a childhood friend, makes the ending bitter sweet (just like real life).