Pros: Deep characters and an interesting mystery
Cons: None worth dwelling on
The Bottom Line:
A new character
In engrossing new series
Already a friend
Rookie Cop and a Personal Murder
Sometimes, you learn things about your part of the country from fiction books. For example, until I started hearing about Murder on Bamboo Lane, I wasn't aware there was a bicycle patrol division in the LAPD. Naomi Hirahara has turned that fact into the basis for a new series, and the debut is a true winner.
Ellie Rush is a rookie in the LAPD's bicycle patrol based in the downtown area. She's only been on the job for a few months, but she hopes to climb through the ranks quickly and become a full fledged detective.
Her chance to prove herself comes sooner than she expected when she is asked to provide the preliminary identification for a former college classmate. Jenny Nguyen and Ellie shared a class, but Ellie still feels a connection to her. With the encouragement of her aunt Cheryl, the LAPD's assistant chief and the highest ranking Asian American woman, Ellie starts to turn up some clues. But are they helpful or is she hurting her own career?
Knowing that Naomi has written another series, I was expecting the characters to be strong right out of the gate, but I wasn't expecting them to be this strong. By the third chapter, I felt like I had known them for much longer and really cared about them. Ellie especially, at just twenty-three, is struggling to figure out how to navigate life as an adult while still having her parent's expectations in her life. She's got friends still in college, so that's part of the struggle as well.
The book introduces some sub-plots early on that take a back seat as the murder investigation heads toward it's climax. This may make the pacing seem a little off at times early on, but those sub-plots really help with the characters. The pay off is well worth it.
And the mystery itself is strong. There are some nice red herrings and twists along the way. Ellie, being new, is still feeling her way at times, but these blunders help make the story even better.
One thing I found interesting, the book is written first person present tense. Since it is a rare writing choice, I found the result gives the book a different feel.
By the time the book reached the climax, I was so pulled into the story I felt much of what Ellie was going through personally. This has a depth to it that the cozies I normally read don't have. I really appreciated that factor.
Obviously, I'm a fan of this book. I'm not sure where Naomi Hirahara will be taking Ellie over the course of the next few cases, but I'll be along to find out. Murder on Bamboo Lane is a wonderful series debut.