THE JASMINE TRADE

Denise Hamilton, Author . Scribner $24 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7432-1269-4

When a young Chinese bride-to-be is found dead at the wheel of her Lexus at the start of this solid debut thriller, plucky Los Angeles Times reporter Eve Diamond's compulsive curiosity and professional instinct for good copy lead her into the unfamiliar and intersecting worlds of Asian gangs and Southern California's "parachute kids," wealthy Asian teens living unsupervised in San Marino mansions while their parents manage businesses on the other side of the Pacific. By quickly befriending a parachute kid "dancing with the dragon" of gang membership and just as swiftly falling in love with Mark Furukawa, a counselor for troubled teens, Eve ensures herself a role in the investigation that is both complicated and personal. Add in the murdered girl's secret diary, her shady fiancé, a corrupt bank, a racist cop and the "jasmine trade" (smuggling girls out of Chinese provinces and forcing them into prostitution), and it's not surprising that Eve's entanglement in the case becomes life threatening. First-time novelist Hamilton, herself a former L.A. Times scribe, might be accused of "dancing with the dragon" of common mystery novel tropes, but she, unlike many of her characters, escapes essentially unscathed. In addition to a gripping story and keen observations about contemporary Los Angeles, she also offers an undeniably winning narrator: intelligent, impulsive Eve is sharp on the outside and vulnerable on the inside, willing to cogitate with equal intensity on issues private (a lost love, a dead brother) and public (racial and socioeconomic politics, "the media's scorching glare"). And Hamilton hints, ever so gently, that her heroine might return. (July)

Reviewed on: 07/02/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-7860-1523-8
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-7432-1477-3
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