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Welcome back to Ho-Lee Noodle House, where you can get fantastic take-out. . .unless you get taken out first.
“Vivien Chien serves up a delicious mystery with a side order of soy sauce and sass. A tasty start to a new mystery series!” –Bestselling author Kylie Logan on Death by Dumpling
Dim Sum of All Fears is the second book in a delicious new cozy series.
Lana Lee is a dutiful daughter, waiting tables at her family’s Chinese restaurant even though she’d rather be doing just about anything else. Then, just when she has a chance for a “real” job, her parents take off to Taiwan, leaving Lana in charge. Surprising everyone–including herself–she turns out to be quite capable of running the place. Unfortunately, the newlyweds who just opened the souvenir store next door to Ho-Lee have turned up dead. . .and soon Lana finds herself in the midst of an Asia Village mystery.
Between running the Ho-Lee and trying to figure out whether the rock-solid Detective Adam Trudeau is actually her boyfriend, Lana knows she shouldn’t pry into the case. But the more she learns about the dead husband, his ex-wives, and all the murky details of the couple’s past, the more Lana thinks that this so-called murder/suicide is a straight-up order of murder. . .
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I am eternally thankful to the following people:
Heartfelt gratitude goes to my wonderful agent, Gail Fortune, for being my cheerleader and guide throughout the publishing process. I’m extremely fortunate to have you by my side. To Hannah Braaten, my editor and second set of eyes, thank you for “getting” me. To Allison Ziegler, Sarah Schoof, and Nettie Finn for the amazing jobs they perform. To Mary Ann Lasher, for making my book covers looks delicious. And, to all of St. Martin’s for being one heck of a publisher. I am so proud to write for you.
To the Sisters in Crime, both locally and nationally, I applaud you for the support and direction you provide to so many. Big hugs go to my NEOSinC buddies Amanda Flower and Cari Dubiel for their continuing guidance, their expertise and friendship. To Casey Daniels (who is also Kylie Logan) for being the best fairy godmother a gal could ever ask for.
Many thanks to Tina Roberts for helping on the topic of retail property. To Kim Hammond for answering my random legal questions. And, to Michael Wojciechowski for his behind-the-scenes casino knowledge. (All errors or adjustments to reality belong to yours truly.)
To Paul Corrao who is one heck of a dad. You never cease to amaze me with the confidence and faith you have in what I do. To my mother, Chin Mei Chien, who gifted me with this sass and sense of humor. My sister, Shu-Hui Wills, for always looking out for me and telling me I’m “smarter than that.” I will never find the appropriate words to properly thank Rebecca Zandovskis who has remained with me through thick and thin and provided me with such an amazing friendship. You continue to inspire me. Much appreciation goes to Holly Synk for all of her support and also coming along while I walk the path of my characters. Huge thanks to my gal pals: Mallory, Lindsey, Tiffany and Alyssa, I don’t know what I’d do without you.
To my very favorite boss lady, Kelly Antal, who has shown me so much support through this process since day one. Thank you for allowing me to jump around in your office and for putting up with me on a daily basis. To Christopher Foster for his enthusiasm in my work away from work. And, also for entertaining all of my silliness. (I haven’t jumped around in your office yet, but it’s coming, I’m sure.) Richard Foster, I am grateful for your kind words, encouragement and allowing me to be myself, teal hair and all.
To my readers … I would hug all of you if I could. You make this even more fun for me.
And lastly, but never least, to the unnamed friends and family who have shown belief in this “little engine that could” … I thank you.
“Ai-ya!” my mother bellowed from across the crowded restaurant. She stood up from the table, her hands squeezing her hips. My sister and father turned in their chairs to see what she was looking at with such disdain.
It was me. Lana Lee.
The gawking eyes of just about everyone in the room—including staff—followed me as I slunk across the restaurant to the table where my family was seated. Of course they had to be sitting all the way in the back.
The best way to describe our family of four is similar to the game “one of these things is not like the other,” with my dad—the solo white guy—being the odd man out. Even though my sister and I are only half Taiwanese, you wouldn’t know it by looking at us. If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “That’s your dad?”—well, I probably would never have to work another day in my life.
On Sundays, the four of us gathered for our traditional dim sum outing at Li-Wah’s on Cleveland’s east side. And because of this, we opened our own restaurant, Ho-Lee Noodle House, at noon. This meant my sister and I didn’t have an excuse to skip out on family time.
“Shhh!” I hissed at my mother as I slipped into the empty seat next to my sister. “People are staring at us!”
“Your hair is blue!” my mother screeched, ignoring my plea. “Why is your hair blue?”
My mother, though petite, did her best to tower over the table. At times, it was hard to take her seriously because she was so darn cute with her chubby cheeks, but it was all in the eyes. And today, the eyes let me know that she was not amused.
I lifted a hand to my head, running my fingers through the freshly dyed hair. “Not all of it.”
Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the best time to dye my hair with streaks of blue. I hadn’t really thought that part through when I’d set up the appointment.
Not only was I springing a daring new hairstyle on my parents, who were both on the old-fashioned side, but I was also getting ready to tell them that I had been interviewing for a new office job in the hope of quitting my stint as server at our family’s restaurant.
Most of the positions I had been looking into were for data entry, but there was one company that stood out among the others I had applied to, and the position was a little higher on the totem pole. It was for an office manager, and the pay was great. The benefits package was great, the office itself was great … everything was great. And, added bonus, it came with three weeks of paid vacation.
I’d interviewed with them the week before, and it had gone exceptionally well. They had called this past Friday to set up a second interview for this upcoming Thursday, and I had a good feeling that by the end of it, the job would be mine if I wanted it. Which, of course, I did. After all, a gal can’t peddle sweet-and-sour pork her entire life. So alas, it was time to let my parents know they needed to start looking for new help.
“Betty.” My dad, the calm and collected one of the family, put a gentle hand on her forearm, nudging her back into her seat. “Let’s all sit down.”
Anna May—older sister and picture-perfect daughter—gave me a once-over. “And you did this on purpose?”
After stuffing my purse under the table, I shimmied out of my winter coat and hung it on the back of my chair. “Yes, I did it on purpose. Not all of us want to be so plain all the time.” I gave her a pointed once-over back.
“Interesting.” My sister ran a French-manicured hand through her pin-straight black hair. It fell just below her shoulders, and gleamed. “I suppose you’re right, though, not all of us can pull off a classic look.”
My own nails, painted teal, were chipping. I hid my hands under the table before she could notice. “If that’s what you want to call it…”
My mother continued to analyze my hair, her eyebrows scrunched low over her eyelids. “Why did you do this?” Her lips pursed as she landed on the question mark.
With a shrug, I replied, “I don’t know. I felt like it.” Lie. I did know. However, I didn’t want to admit to them, or to anyone, that it was because of what had happened to me only a few short weeks ago. Of course, no one would say anything once I explained that it was because my life had been threatened at gunpoint, but part of me didn’t want to say that out loud. Saying it out loud made it more real.
Since then, I’ve decided to stop putting things off until the elusive “tomorrow.” Procrastination is nobody’s friend.
My savvy stylist, Jasmine Ming, was more than thrilled to swap out my gold peekaboo highlights for some bright-blue ones. I didn’t want to go overboard, but I’m pretty sure I saw a glint in her eye when she added the first touch of blue.
I reviewed the plates on the table and avoided eye contact with my mother. Placed in front of me were plates of baby bok choy in garlic sauce, noodle rolls, turnip cakes, and pot stickers. I busied myself with unwrapping my chopsticks and grabbed a rice noodle roll stuffed with shrimp.
My dad looked at me with a soft smile. “Is this because of what’s-his-name?”
“No, Dad,” I huffed, my chopsticks involuntarily tapping my plate. “I couldn’t care less about him.”
Okay, that wasn’t totally true, either. What’s-his-name was my ex-boyfriend, whom we did not mention by name. Ever. Not unless you wanted me to sprout snakes out of my head à la Medusa.
Anna May snickered. “No, Dad, she’s dating Detective Trudeau now, didn’t you know?” She clasped her hands together next to her face and batted her eyelashes. “He’s sooo dreamy.”
“Would you all stop it?” I jabbed the noodle roll with my chopsticks. “You’re making a big deal over nothing. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while, and I decided to stop putting it off. That’s all.”
I twisted in my chair to properly face my sister. She looked a little too amused at my expense. “And for your information, Adam and I have only been out on three dates. I hardly call that dating. Not that it’s any of your business.”
Anna May turned her nose up. “Well, I won’t be looking for my wedding invite anytime soon, but still, close enough.”
“I kind of like it…” My dad cocked his head at me, nodding his acceptance of my hair. “Now, about this Adam character … he’s a cop, so he’s no slacker. Does he drive American?”
“Bill,” my mother said, clucking her tongue. “This is no good. My daughter looks like a cartoon.”
“Oh, honey, she looks fine,” he said, squeezing her hand. “Let’s just enjoy our lunch before we have to head to the restaurant.” He tapped his watch. “Besides, we still have the news we need to tell the girls, remember?”
My sister and I glanced at each other.
“What news?” Anna May asked.
My mother set down her chopsticks and shifted in her seat. “Your a-ma called this morning. She is very upset and has been crying for many days now.” She shook her head. “Your uncle does not know what to do with her.”
My “a-ma” is my grandmother in Taiwan. Because of her declining health, she was now living with my mom’s younger brother and his wife, along with their three children, two of whom were toddlers. I guessed the living quarters were starting to feel a little cramped.
“So…” my father started, urging my mother along.
“We are going to Taiwan for a couple of weeks to help take care of A-ma.” My mother said this in one long blurt while avoiding eye contact with my sister and me.
“A couple of weeks?” I yelped. No, no, no. They couldn’t leave now. Not when I’d just found the perfect office job.
“Right before Chinese New Year?” Anna May glanced between the two of them. “Can’t you wait until after it’s over?”
My parents looked at each other.
“Who will run the restaurant?” I asked, fearing the answer. Any way you spun it, it wouldn’t be good.
Anna May perked up beside me, straightening in her seat. “Well, that’s obvious, it’s—”
“Lana will run the restaurant,” my dad announced before Anna May could continue. He put his arm around my mother and gave her another squeeze.
“What?” my sister and I shouted in unison.
My dad held up a hand. “This makes the most sense. Lana is already working there full-time. And besides,” my dad said, eyeing Anna May, “you’ve got school. You don’t have a lot of time to run a business.”
I threw up my hands. “Oh, of course, Anna May and her law school stuff again. What about my stuff? Does anyone ever think of what I have going on in my life?”
“Lana.” My mother gave me her masterful look of disapproval. “This is something to help Mommy. Why would you not want to help Mommy? I changed your diaper when you were a baby.”
I sighed. The diaper argument. Every time.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving her in charge.” Anna May slouched in her seat. “Lana isn’t responsible enough to manage the restaurant unsupervised. I’m going to end up putting in extra time to help.”
“Are you kidding me?” I turned to glare at her. “I’m sitting right here.”
She returned my glare with one of her own. “I know.”
“Okay, girls,” my dad interjected. “That’s enough bickering. This is our decision and it’s final. Anna May, you have too much going on in your life to give the restaurant your full attention. Lana has more time than you do right now and this makes the most sense. End of story.”
Anna May folded her arms over her chest. “Yeah, I suppose you’re right. She doesn’t have anything going on besides hanging out at that stupid bar where Megan works.”
I stiffened in my seat. “First of all, Megan’s bar is not stupid. And I do have stuff going on. Just because I don’t tell you every single thing I do doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything.”
“Right … so do you want to tell us what that supposed stuff is, exactly?”
My dad shushed my sister and then turned to me. “Lana? Is there a reason you don’t want to be in charge of the restaurant while we’re gone? If there’s something going on, Goober, you need to tell us.”
If I didn’t speak up now, it would be too late and I could kiss my chance of leaving the restaurant goodbye. By the time they were back from their trip, the position I was hoping to take would more than likely be gone. I weighed my options as my family stared at me, waiting for a justifiable answer.
My mother finally got to me. Her stoicism usually drove me crazy, because I never knew what she was thinking. But today, her emotions were written all over her face. She was obviously tired and stressed. It had been a long time since my parents had made the trip to Taiwan, so I knew it had to be urgent. With my sister canceled out as an option, I knew they would be solely dependent on me for this. Knowing my mother, she would not let someone outside of the family run the restaurant. She’d rather close up shop.
I looked away, feeling defeat. “No, there’s not.”
“Good, then it’s settled,” my dad said, rubbing my mother’s back. “See, Betty? I told you everything would work itself out.”
“When are you guys leaving?”
My mother looked down at her plate. “We leave in three days.”
Anna May chuckled beside me.
I’d like to say that this was my biggest problem, but unfortunately, this was going to turn out to be one of my better days.
After dim sum, I headed home, a little on the blue side. The hope that I’d been holding on to for getting back to my former life was starting to slip away. In the past few months, things had progressed from bad to worse, starting with breaking up with what’s-his-name and drifting in a downward motion toward walking out of a more-than-decent job, a mounting pile of credit card debt, and an obsession with doughnuts that gained me a pant size. (In the wake of emotional disaster, there is nothing I find more comforting than pastries and retail therapy.)
The battle back upward had been a difficult one and I gave in to taking a job at my parents’ Chinese restaurant so I could get caught up with my bills again. Turns out bill collectors are not very sympathetic to your breakup-induced depressions.
Don’t get me wrong; Some people like being in the service industry. But me … I’d had my fill. Ho-Lee Noodle House had been a part of my family since before I was born. There wasn’t a time I remembered it not being there. But I needed a change of pace.
I don’t think it had originally been my mother’s dream to open a restaurant, but regardless, she and my father poured everything they had into making their business succeed. The plan was to keep Ho-Lee Noodle House alive for as long as possible, which for them meant keeping it in the family.
With two daughters, you wouldn’t necessarily think that the burden would be left on my shoulders. You’d think that it would go to the eldest. But you’d be wrong.
Anna May, the scholar of the two of us, had her whole life planned out in a detailed outline that she’d started when she was around sixteen and read her first John Grisham novel. From there, talk about criminal law was just as common in the Lee family household as talk about noodle recipes.
Of course at that time, being two years her junior, I was still concerned with rock band posters and how I was going to get out of third-period gym class. I had no ambitions that could rival my sister’s legal dream.
Maybe it was the pressure of comparing myself with her that led me down my eventual path of idealism. I became the dreamer of the family, the lover of arts and literature, taking joy in things that were made with creativity. I wanted to do something meaningful … to be driven by passion. I wanted to have something more than simply “a job.”
I just wasn’t sure what that entailed exactly. I had my interests, but nothing had stuck in terms of “lifelong.”
And as most twenty-somethings come to realize, having a dream doesn’t actually pay the bills. After college, I floundered around aimlessly looking for jobs that would at least sustain my life as an adult, all the while knowing that if I didn’t find a grand career scheme like my sister, my fate would be chosen for me.
All of this tumbled through my head as I walked into the two-bedroom apartment I shared with my best friend, Megan. It was a modest garden-style apartment in North Olmsted, which was only a hop, skip, and jump away from Asia Village. It made my commute easy and was one thing I could put on the “pro” side of my list.
Kikko, my black pug, waddled to the door to greet me. Her curly tail wiggled as she spun around my ankles. I knelt down to give her a pat on the head. She approved and scampered off in search of something acceptable to bring me.
Meanwhile, I found Megan sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in hand and paint swatches scattered in front of her. She was still in her pajamas, makeup-less, and her blond hair was swept away from her face by a thick black headband. Without looking up, she said, “Oh good, you’re home. I was just about to text you. I was thinking we could go to Home Depot today. I’ve decided on this mermaid theme for the bathroom, and this teal is the perfect color to paint the walls.” She held up a swatch to show me her recent selection. “I also need to grab a new flashlight and some window cleaner.”
“A flashlight? We have one under the sink.”
“I want one for my car. I’m putting together a whole kit of tools to keep in the trunk.”
I studied the paint swatch. “This works for me,” I said, with little emotion. I was too bogged down with my current pity party to give a more enthused answer.
“It kind of matches your hair.” She looked up and frowned. “What happened? Did your mom give you a hard time about your new dye job? Because you said you were anticipating that, and we decided you weren’t going to let it get to you, remember? We both know she doesn’t do well with change.”
I nodded, sitting across from her, still in my coat. “Yeah, but that got overshadowed real fast.”
“My parents announced that they’re going to Taiwan for a couple of weeks to help take care of my grandmother.”
Megan sipped her coffee, unimpressed with my news. “What’s the big deal with that?”
“They’re leaving me in charge of the restaurant. They leave on Wednesday.” I slouched in the chair.
“Wednesday!” Megan shouted.
Kikko came barreling into the dining area, stuffed duck flapping in her mouth. She dropped it at my feet and looked at me in anticipation.
I knelt down and picked up the duck, throwing it into the hallway. Kikko happily scuttled after it. “Yes, Wednesday, the day before my interview. The interview I’m not going to make because I now have to work.”
“But didn’t you tell your parents that you were trying to get this job?”
I looked at the floor.
“You did, right?” Megan insisted.
“I didn’t think it was a good time…”
“Lana! How else are you going to get out of that place if you don’t speak up?”
“It wasn’t a good time to bring it up. It’s really important to my mom that she go to Taiwan right now, and I didn’t want to cause more problems for them,” I said, trying to justify my actions. “Who else is going to do it?”
“What about Anna May? Can’t she run the restaurant?”
“They think it would get in the way of her school stuff. And it probably would.”
Kikko came back with her duck, dropped it on the floor, and nudged it with her nose.
“I can always try again when they get back.”
“Of all the times for your parents to choose to go to Taiwan, of course it’s now.” Flustered, Megan stood abruptly, startling Kikko, who in turn grabbed her duck with indignation and pranced into the other room. “Well, we’ll figure out a plan together. You have to get that job. It’s not going to wait around for you.” She sighed. “In the meantime, I’m going to get dressed and then we’re going to Home Depot … this bathroom project will cheer you up.”
“What will cheer me up is if we stop at the doughnut shop on the way.”
* * *
Bright and early Monday morning—my least favorite time of all—I pulled into the parking lot of Asia Village, passing the dragon-coiled arch on my way in, the sun barely touching the tops of the pagoda-lined plaza. The parking lot had been freshly plowed, and my tires crunched over the remaining snow and rocks of salt.
I walked with care through the lot, keeping an eye out for patches of ice as I made my way to the main entrance. My riding boots were more fashionable than practical.
I stamped my boots on the entrance mat as I entered the building, the sound echoing through the near-empty plaza. A few shop owners sprinkled the establishment, lifting gates or unlocking doors in preparation for opening.
With its cobblestoned walkways, skylights, and koi pond—Japanese footbridge and all—Asia Village is what you’d call picturesque. The Asian-themed enclosed shopping plaza contains all the treasures of the Orient. Literally. That’s what it says in the brochure.
We’ve got all the latest Chinese films and TV shows, a variety of pastries from moon cakes to egg tarts, and a full-sized grocery store that sells everything from bamboo shoots to red bean Popsicles. Hey, don’t knock it till you try it.
- On Sale
- Aug 28, 2018
- Page Count
- 288 pages
- Hachette Book Group