I was pretty enthused to grab the second book in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series — Lydia’s voice and character was so strong, and her interaction with her sometimes partner Bill was not your usual P.I. partner/friend/sounding board fare. You add in the strong possibility of another case in/around Chinatown? This really had the look of a series I could sink my teeth into.
And almost immediately, that all came to a crashing halt. The voice wasn’t quite right, the interactions the first person narrator had with the other character didn’t fit Lydia — ohhhh, it dawns on me — Concourse is from Bill’s point of view. Huh. Whaddayaknow?
After the initial confusion and mental gear-shifting, I settled in for a good read. This is a gloomier, darker read than China Trade. Bill doesn’t have the same fight, the same ambition that Lydia does — and a whole different set of demons to deal with. Some of which we see here: Bill’s called in to help a former mentor/father figure with problem that’s resulted in the death of another member Bill’s surrogate family. He takes an undercover role in the investigation and calls in Lydia to uncover what she can about the parties involved from the outside.
What follows is a twisted path down real estate, NYC politics, revenge, the dark side of charity, the way the elderly are treated, and a touch of redemption. There’s a few punches thrown, some gun play, a lot of booze. Your basic ingredients for what this is — a solid PI novel.
The thing that’s kept me thinking is the Lydia/Bill relationship/dynamic. It felt a little different this time, coming from Bill’s perspective. But the core was the same. It was pretty clear in China Trade that Bill’s feelings for Lydia go beyond the flirtation she’s determined to see them as, but it was still nice to see that fully — he’s serious about her, but is willing to wait for her to come around. However playful it seemed for her, it’s not for him (again, I was pretty sure of that last time). It makes his flirtation a little less enjoyable, a little more sad.
In the end, I have a better perspective of the two of them as characters, a fuller picture. After years of seeing Elvis Cole and Joe Pike in the Elvis Cole series, Robert Crais really only gives us the same looks at the same characters in the books told from Pike’s perspective (this is nothing negative about Crais, it’s only a thought I had now, and in a moment of leisure I might come back to and further develop). So for Rozan to pull this off is quite an accomplishment.
I don’t know who will be telling the tale in the next book — I’ll hopefully figure it out a bit more quickly — and I don’t care, either way, I’m looking forward to it.