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Reviewed by Lucinda E Clarke for Readers' Favorite
This is the first book in a series introducing Socrates Cheng as a detective, although when we first meet him, he’s running his own business selling antique pens and old parchments. Mandarin Yellow (the name of a particularly historic pen) by Steven M Roth is set in Chinatown in Washington, and the hero had at no point ever thought of becoming a private investigator until persuaded by his girlfriend Jade’s father to recover several precious artefacts which are due to appear in an important exhibition. Should these not be recovered in time, the head of the Li Bing family will lose face. Socrates is considered an outsider - his father was Chinese, but his mother was Greek - and therefore an unsuitable match for the high born Jade, to the extent that while she’s his girlfriend the family have disowned her. Socrates takes on the case in the hopes that he can ingratiate himself with his prospective father-in-law and the rest of the family.
There are lots of twists and turns in Mandarin Yellow by Steven M Roth and I found it an entertaining and delightful read. There are several murders, characters that are described so clearly it is easy to love or hate them, and the pace is kept up until the end. Socrates is the hero you grow to like. He is a very down to earth character who bumbles his way from one crisis and puzzle to the next. I had my suspicions as to who the murderer was, as one suspect after another was eliminated, but the ending was a surprise. Although set in America, the action included so much information on Oriental history and culture it could just as easily have been set in China or Hong Kong. A good book that I enjoyed reading and I shall look out for more by this author.