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In the fourth in Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop delicious mystery series, Ho-Lee Noodle House is ready to take the Cleveland night market by storm–until a brand-new food venue literally explodes onto the scene.
Lana Lee is all smiles when the first evening of Cleveland’s Asian Night Market kicks off the summer. The weekly festival is always good for business, packed with locals and tourists, and this year, some stiff new food-truck competition. Wonton on Wheels, run by old friends of Lana’s parents, promises to have customers lining up for their delicately wrapped delights–until the truck blows up at evening’s end.
Lana’s boyfriend, Detective Adam Trudeau, had been planning a birthday getaway for the two of them but, lo and behold, Lana must assume the role of amateur sleuth yet again. With one proprietor of Wonton on Wheels dead, it’s beginning to look more like murder and less like an unfortunate accident. And as they begin to unwrap layers of disturbing secrets, Lana’s own family erupts into new drama. Will Lana be able to solve this crime–or has she jumped from the wok right into the fire?
“Thoroughly entertaining…fun and delicious.”–RT Book Reviews
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Donna Feng is the kind of woman who makes a statement just by walking into a room. She is bold, she is coiffed, and she exudes the kind of confidence any woman would covet. I often found myself searching within for the same type of confident mentality.
It is on a rare occasion that you would find Donna in a state of flux. However, today she was in rare form. When we entered through the front door, we found Donna in the sitting room standing next to a slightly shorter woman in a sleek black suit, barking orders at a team of people in crisp white shirts and black dress pants. I had no idea who the people were, but my best guess told me they were here to help make Donna’s party the best in the city.
Donna, though in a stunning dark gray A-line dress, appeared less than confident. Her fists were clenched at her sides, and I could see the anxiety in her eyes as the other woman talked.
“Okay people, guests will start to arrive shortly, and everything has to be absolutely on point! I expect nothing less!” The woman clapped her hands together in quick succession. “Flower arrangements on all the tables, settings placed to perfection … if anything is out of place, put it in place. Now move!”
The workers left the room in single file.
My sister and I shared a look as we followed behind Peter. Donna caught the movement from the corner of her eye and clasped her hands together in excitement. “Oh Lana, darling,” she cooed, ignoring both my sister and Peter. “You’ve arrived! Come in, come in. I’m so glad you’re here!”
She greeted me and my sister with a hug and gave a respectful nod to Peter. “Lana, I’d love for you to meet my party planner. This is Yvette Howard, and she is absolutely brilliant at what she does. I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
The shorter woman stepped up and smiled brightly. She had the exact same air of confidence that Donna carried and I could see why Donna would choose her. “It’s nice to meet you.”
“Yvette,” Donna said, putting an arm around me. “This is my caterer, Lana Lee, her sister, and their cook. Lana was so gracious as to handle all of the food prep, and since she’s a family friend, you can see why I didn’t need any help in that department.”
Donna and I sort of bonded around the time of her husband’s death a few months back, and ever since then she had seemingly taken more of a liking to me over my sister. She wasn’t a huge fan of Peter because he happened to be the illegitimate son of her deceased husband. However, because of this, she did show him a level of respect. I knew that it was painful for her to see him since it was a reminder of her husband’s infidelity, so considering the circumstances, I think she handled her encounters with him pretty well.
“That’s wonderful,” Yvette replied with fake enthusiasm. “It’s really nice to meet all of you, but I want to go check on things on the back deck and make sure we’re just about ready.”
Donna patted Peter on the shoulder, and gestured to the kitchen entrance with her other hand. “Let’s get you guys situated. You can set everything down in here. You’ll have to excuse the mess, it’s been absolutely chaotic all day. I can’t seem to find any competent help except for Yvette, and the girls have been driving me nuts since the moment they got out of bed this morning.”
Jill and Jessica Feng were Donna’s twin teenager girls who were a bit of a handful these days. Both of them had decided it was a good time to go through their rebellious phase. I had a suspicion it had something to do with their father’s death and everything that came out about Peter being their half-brother didn’t help the situation.
No one talked about it either … including Peter. The girls never spent any time with Peter and he had never tried to offer getting to know them. Neither Donna, nor Peter’s mother, Nancy, had ever encouraged it.
I set my armload of items down on the flawless marble countertop of the kitchen island and assessed the room. The stainless steel appliances were sparkling and definitely cleaner than anything you’d find in my apartment. The ceramic floors were equally clean and I’d bet money you could eat off of them if the situation called for it. “Donna, everything is immaculate as usual. You’re worrying over nothing.”
She released a heavy sigh, leaning against the island. “Everything just feels absolutely out of order. How’s my hair?” she asked, quickly changing subjects.
“It looks great!” my sister chimed in from behind me. “And your dress is amazing.”
“Thanks dear,” she said smoothing out the lines near her waist. “Calvin Klein never lets me down, I can tell you that. And you girls look lovely as well.” She assessed our matching qi-paos. “It was a great idea of your mother’s to have the ladies wear matching outfits. Uniformity is a clear sign of classic professionalism.”
I bit my tongue because I didn’t agree. I thought it was an awful idea, but now wasn’t the time to express my true feelings about my attire to the birthday girl. “Donna, why don’t you go and relax for a little while and let us handle everything down here. I can get the door as the guests start to arrive. And Yvette seems to have everything else under control.”
“Oh sure, I suppose you’re right about that. I probably should check on the girls one last time as well. They invited a few of their little friends over and I want to make sure they understand the ground rules. After all, this is an adult party.” As she started to walk away, she turned around to say, “Just send everybody out onto the back deck and I’ll be down in a little while.”
After she left the room, Peter, who had remained silent during the whole conversation, let out a low whistle. “Dude, someone needs to chill.”
Easy for Peter to say; I’d seen him emote maybe a whole two times since the day we met. Although it was odd for Donna to act out like this.
“Give her a break,” my sister said, swatting his arm. “Women get weird on their birthdays as they get older. Life is passing, things haven’t happened, things have gone to the wayside, whatever. There’s always something. And she’s already a widow.”
“Age is just a number,” I said, knowing full well what would happen next. But there are those moments where I just can’t help myself.
My sister rolled her eyes at me. “That’s because you’re not even thirty yet, Lana. Trust me. You’re going to be singing a different tune in two years. Mark my words.”
“Doubt it,” I replied. “You’ve said this to me every year for how many years and I still don’t agree.”
“Lana, I am the big sister, so trust me. I know.”
My sister is only three years older than me, but she acts like there’s twenty years in between us. She is always warning me about this and that and how things are just all heading down from here.
On more than one occasion, I’ve been called an idealist, and truly, I think it’s a blessing if anything. Yes, I’d like to believe in the good of life and humanity. Is that so wrong?
Instead of caving to the typical argument that follows between us on the subject, I decided to busy myself with the actual task at hand.
The bulk of the party would be outside in the backyard around the pool. My friends from the plaza, Kimmy Tran—who was also Peter’s girlfriend—and Rina Su would also assist in serving food. The menu was predominantly appetizers and we would be those girls you see walking around with trays. Yes, I was a tray girl. But also as manager of Ho-Lee Noodle House, it was my job to make sure that everything ran smoothly. My parents would be in attendance at the party along with my grandmother, but they were coming as guests. It was just the Lee girls working tonight. Nancy had been exempt from the evening because of the weirdness between her and Donna. I thought at first that it might hurt her feelings, but she was actually quite relieved. Her and our other cook were at the noodle house keeping the place running so we didn’t have to close to cater the party.
Peter went out to move the van, and my sister got busy preparing the final tasks before the party started. Not only because this was Donna’s birthday party, but it was our first catering gig and there would be many prominent guests here that might want our catering services for themselves in the future. I’d had special menus and extra business cards printed to hand out to guests if anyone asked. Nothing could go wrong tonight. Absolutely nothing …
- On Sale
- Aug 27, 2019
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Hachette Book Group