Sunday, August 14, 2016

Reading on the Beach

Poipu Beach, just across the street from the apartment where we're staying.  
This is the third novel I've read by
S.J. Rozan
 Yesterday we sat on the beach all day. Today I'm going to do more or less the same while Len goes diving. Yesterday's reading was China Trade, a detective novel by S.J.Rozan, set in Chinatown, New York City. Perfect beach reading. Today I have a police procedural set in England. Probably also perfect for the beach.

I love the way that Rozan, in the first-person narrative spoken by private investigator Lydia Chin, uses food to create a character sketch of the person who is eating or serving it. Here are some examples I really liked. First, consider this scene where Lydia's partner Bill Smith brings her a box of cookies from an Italian bakery:
"'Cookies?' I brightened, led the way into my office. 
"'White-trash medicine,' he said, settling on the guest chair. "'Eat sugar, you’ll feel better.' 
"In the box were miniature Italian pastries: tiny cannoli in three flavors, silver-dollar-sized cheesecakes, thumbprint cookies with red and green cherries on them. My mouth started to water; lunch had been years ago." (Kindle Locations 1685-1688)
As they much the cookies, they discuss the case.
"I pulled the chewy green cherry off a cookie. 
"'Of course, there may not be anything sinister about this at all. Nobody ever said they didn’t know each other.'" (Kindle Locations 1706-1707)
Or Bill eating a burger while they consider various possible strategies:
"The waitress brought his burger, thick and juicy-looking, smelling of the grill. I had that after-class hunger, too. 
"'A guy I know,' Bill began, fiddling with onions and ketchup, salt and pepper, 'who, of course, doesn’t handle stolen art himself, but knows a guy who might know a guy—'" 
"'Of course,' I agreed. I peeled the pulp out of a wedge of lime. 
"'This guy says that he hasn’t— that is, as far as he knows, his friends haven’t— been offered anything that might come from the Blair collection. But if he were— well, of course, now he’d call me, since he knows I’m looking and he’s eager to cooperate. ...' 
"'He sounds like a pain in the neck, this guy,' I interrupted, as Bill bit into the assembled burger. It was dark red inside, just this side of purple. That’s the way I like it best. 
"'Just a little cautious,' Bill said. 'He’s been in business a long time.'" (Kindle Locations 342-337)
 Of course, there's also a scene in a Chinese restaurant:
"This place— Lucky Seafood— was small, unatmospheric, and sort of a dive, but still at least half the customers were white. Lawyers from the courts and city workers from the area around City Hall, which both border Chinatown, wielded chopsticks with practiced ease, talking, eating, and thrusting the sticks at each other to emphasize important points. They passed the platters of breaded pork and jade scallops so everyone could scoop some onto their plates. The tables of Chinese ate the way I did, reaching across each other onto the stationary platters for the morsels they wanted, dropping pieces into their rice bowls so the rice could soak up the sauce. The lawyers and city workers didn’t eat out of the rice bowls, but scooped rice, also, out onto their plates."(Kindle Locations 1344-1349).
There's lots more. Lydia's mother cooks for her, Bill and Lydia eat in other places, Bill scrambles some eggs for dinner, and a very proper lady serves them some lunch -- every scene revealing something about the characters that helps the story to proceed. And it's a nicely structured and satisfying detective story as well!

A turtle on Poipu Beach. It's time to go there now!

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