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CHINATOWN BEAT


By Henry Chang

Soho Crime, November, 2006 ($22.00)
ISBN: 978-1569474372

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

This book has been languishing in my "to read" pile for months, through no fault of its own. I just wanted to be able to relax, and read the book from cover to cover without rushing and without any annoying interruptions. I wanted to be able to delve into the ambiance the author created and not be jerked back into the present day to day chaos that has been my life lately. I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed in postponing the reading of CHINATOWN BEAT until I could devote my entire attention to it.

I have lived near San Francisco's Chinatown and I am married to a Chinese-American so I do have some inkling of the culture and the unique problems that can arise when non-Asian cops try to deal with Asian crimes. At the same time, being an Asian cop presents its own set of problems, in a world where many things are illegal and exotic, and many people are lured by both.

The author brings New York's Chinese-American culture with all of its inconsistencies to the reader as he introduces Jack Yu, an American-born Asian NYPD detective assigned to the streets of Chinatown where he grew up. Yet Yu is as much an outsider as the reader may be, since his badge sets him apart and against many who live and work in Chinatown.

The crime Yu is investigating involves the rape of a young grade-school girl. He suspects an illegal immigrant may be the rapist and there may be a link with local gangsters. Although there is a crime, this is not just a traditional police procedural. Yu acts as a sort of guide for the reader, to the often secretive Chinese community. CHINATOWN BEAT gives the reader a close-up view of Chinese street gangs, organized crime, Chinese-style, and the colorful characters who populate the streets and alleyways of Chinatown.

CHINATOWN BEAT is a worthy debut. I hope the author will bring Yu back for more adventures in the near future.

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