... a really terrific debut novel that melds a borderline techno thriller mystery with a contemporary comedy of manners. The depiction of Claudia’s own complicated personal life, balancing her typical 20-something-year-old situation as a 21st-century American woman living in New York City with the more unusual pressures she faces as the youngest daughter in a Taiwanese immigrant family, make for really absorbing—and to me, relatable—reading. Claudia is smart, funny, self-aware, and loves a good mystery as much as I do, constantly referencing the (fictional) Inspector Yuan series as she investigates ... I really hope this is only the first in a line of mystery novels featuring Claudia and crew. While I did find both her mother and her sister insufferable, I understood Claudia’s sympathy for them, and love the empathy she shows throughout this book. It was really nice to see how empathy is shown as an invaluable trait in detecting, as Claudia uses it not only to sort through various suspects’ motivations but also to get closer to the truth, whether it be through interviewing witnesses or piecing together clues. Claudia is such a great, fresh detective protagonist, and I’m very eager to read more of her ongoing adventures.
Jane Pek’s exhilarating debut novel almost makes you want to be a 20-something in New York (if you aren’t already) — writing, making art, biking helter-skelter through traffic, navigating work and fraught relationships — even if, as in Claudia Lin’s case, you have to try to solve a murder ... Pek’s plot centers on the potential for evil in the 'matching industry,' but it’s the keen, sprightly, incidentally lesbian heroine and her complex Chinese immigrant family you can’t get enough of.
Those portions of the novel devoted to Claudia’s personal life are well rendered and charming but not especially fresh. Her hypercritical immigrant mother, superambitious or stunning siblings, lovable loser/wannabe artist friends and nerdy, clever partymates and hookups are likable and all too relatable — but not exactly bigger than life. The book jolts into a higher, wilder gear when the stranger, less predictable and possibly malevolent figures arrive, especially the glamorous Becks Rittel, the 'Blonde Assassin,' who has a gift for uttering deadpan, socially unacceptable comments, and who shares an erotic charge with Claudia that the reader can’t miss even if Claudia herself seems oblivious. Also compelling is Claudia’s inscrutable boss, Komla Atsina, a smooth-talking Ghanaian tech wizard whose suave, elegant, utterly controlled demeanor makes him equally believable as undercover hero or evil mastermind ... provides the noir tropes Claudia loves (enigmatic client, amateur detective, lots of red herrings) but with a decidedly 21st-century twist. And the central mystery is, to this reader at least, original and intriguing. The question of whether the people we encounter online are who they say they are is a genuinely troubling one ... leads us deeper and deeper into a maze with no clear exit. Except of course to delete our apps and stop searching for truth and happiness online. But we won’t ever do that. Will we?