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Death by Dumpling: 10/06/18
Death by Dumpling by Vivien Chien is the start of the Noodle Shop mystery series. It's set in an Asian strip mall in Cleveland, Ohio, a refreshing change from the usual either famously large cities or fictional small towns.
Lana Lee, a Chinese-American (of Chinese mother and English father), has been working at her mother's noodle shop after quitting her stressful job. She is the one who ends up delivering the last meal to the mall's owner, Mr. Feng.
This mystery is one of location and one of shared history. The mall opened in the 1970s and has managed to keep most of its original businesses. The Lees were one of the first. As are all the suspects.
At first glance Mr. Feng's death is a tragic accident, food poisoning by extreme allergy. At second glance it looks like an act of revenge by the Noodle House's unconventional cook — a young man who loves to call everyone "Dude." But it's not that either.
I love that Chien avoids so many of the cozy tropes while setting up her world and her characters. For instance, Lana as the protagonist and one of the last people to see Mr. Feng alive could be a prime suspect, the detective in charge isn't set up as the antagonist who is going to do everything in his power to prove that she did it. There is no violent ex-boyfriend for Lana. Her parents aren't bugging her to find a husband. Lana has a good, healthy relationship with her family.
Anyway, it's a great start to a new series. The second book just came out, Dim Sum of all Fears.