A richly detailed murder mystery, Trail of Blood, spans three generations across three continents before the search for the Shanghai Moon reaches New York's Chinatown.

Trail of Blood is another volume in the Bill Smith and Lydia Chin series of crime novels.

Review of the Bill Smith and Lydia Chin Crime Novel by S J Rozan

Lydia Chin, the Chinese-American private investigator is recruited by Joel Pilarsky, another detective and friend, for a straightforward job that has China connections. They are helping a Switzerland based attorney who specialises in the recovery of assets of Holocaust victims. Some buried jewellery has been unearthed in Shanghai and it is believed to have belonged to a Jewish refugee who escaped from Austria just before the Second World War. The Shanghai official responsible for the custody of the jewellery disappears and is believed to have fled with the jewels to New York

After Two Murders the Story Becomes More Complex

An unidentified Chinese man is discovered dead by the police but it is not the fugitive from Shanghai. Joel is murdered after expressing some concerns to Lydia and the story starts to twist and turn through New York’s Chinese community and links back to the Shanghai just before and during the wars.

The Shanghai Moon – A Legendary Jewel

Trail of Blood then follows two linked paths as Lydia Chin and her sometime Bill Smith search for Joel’s murderer. Although the police detectives think his murder was a robbery gone wrong it becomes clear to Chin and Smith that the murder is linked to the legendary jewel, the Shanghai Moon. It is considered priceless by collectors and many have hunted obsessively for it but no one knows has actually seen it.

Rich and Detailed Background to the Detective Story

The background story that underpins Trail of Blood is highly detailed and a fascinating story in its own right. It starts with the escape of Rosalie Gilder, a teenage Jewish girl, and her younger brother from Nazi persecution in Austria in 1938. They escape on board a ship for Shanghai, one of the few places with no quota on refugees . They take with them just a few possessions which include family jewellery.

However it is not a complete escape as Shanghai is occupied by the Japanese and Jews are confined to a ghetto. After the war civil unrest in China continue the suffering into Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Over this post-war period the story moves back to America.

The two stories then join up when the jewellery, which was hidden for safety during the unrest, is discovered.

A Proper Mystery Novel

Unlike many crime or mystery novels Trail of Blood seems complete. Many detective stories leave the reader feeling short changed with the sense that "some magic happened" and then it was solved. That is not the case with Trail of Blood as the story is populated with rounded characters and it feels as though the complete evidence is there to allow the reader to solve the mystery for themselves.

Satisfying Read with Convincing Twists

Lovers of crime, detective and mystery thrillers will enjoy Trail of Blood as it is an absorbing read with a depth that is rare. Although not needed to enjoy Trail of Blood the reader with an interest in history will find it doubly satisfying as the historical background is so comprehensive. It may even encourage some readers to explore the period and location of the story’s background of Shanghai between 1930s and 1960s,

There are believable convolutions throughout Trail of Blood and it finishes with a couple of fascinating twists at the end. All in all a very satisfying and intellectually stimulating story for lovers of crime fiction.

Trail of Blood (2010, ISBN:978-0-091-93636-5) by S J Rozan is published in paperback by Ebury Press at £6.99.


First appeared on Suite101


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