Investigating the discovery of an Asian man's body in the Harlem River, Jack Yu follows leads in Chinatown's benevolent associations before confronting major Triad players with the help of a fortune teller and an old friend. - (Baker & Taylor)
Investigating the discovery of an unidentified Asian man's body in the Harlem river, NYPD detective Jack Yu follows leads in Chinatown's benevolent associations, restaurants and illicit establishments before confronting major Triad players with the help of an elderly fortune teller and the unpredictable Billy Bow. By the author of Year of the Dog. - (Baker & Taylor)
"When the body of an unidentified Asian man is found in the Harlem River, NYPD Detective Jack Yu is pulled in to investigate. The murder takes Jack from the benevolent associations of Chinatown to the take out restaurants, strip clubs, and underground gambling establishments of the Bronx, to a wealthy, exclusive New Jersey borough. It's a world of secrets and unclear allegiances, of Chinatown street gangs and major Triad players. With the help of an elderly fortune teller and an old friend, the unpredictable Billy Bow, Jack races to solve his most difficult case yet"-- - (Baker & Taylor)
In Death Money novelist Henry Chang returns us to the Chinatown of NYPD Detective Jack Yu, and spins one of his most noir tales yet.
When the body of an unidentified Asian man is found in the Harlem River, NYPD Detective Jack Yu is pulled in to investigate. The murder takes Jack from the benevolent associations of Chinatown to the take-out restaurants, strip clubs, and underground gambling establishments of the Bronx, to a wealthy, exclusive New Jersey borough. It's a world of secrets and unclear allegiances, of Chinatown street gangs and major Triad players. With the help of an elderly fortune teller and an old friend, the unpredictable Billy Bow, Jack races to solve his most difficult case yet. - (Random House, Inc.)
It was 7 a.m. when Detective Jack Yu stepped into the frigid dawn spreading over Sunset Park. A slate-gray Brooklyn morning with single-digit temperatures driven by wind shrieking off the East River. He scanned Eighth Avenue for the Chinese see gay radio cars but saw none, only a couple of Taipan minibuses, sai ba, queued up a block away from the Double Eight Cantonese restaurant.
The wind gusted fierce and he regretted not wearing one of his Army Airborne sapper hats. The minibuses were slower than the car service jocks, but with early morning rush-hour traffic already streaming into Manhattan, it wouldn’t make much difference. And although he’d wanted the quiet solitude of one of the black radio cars to review his thoughts for his appointment with the NYPD-assigned shrink at the Ninth Precinct, he’d also felt the need to beconnected, wanted some proximity to Chinese people, his own people, civilians. The twenty-five-minute bouncy rush across the BQE to Manhattan’s Chinatown, an undulating ride to people’s jobs, schools, to whatever their piece of the Gum Shan, Gold Mountain, demanded of them, would work as well, he decided.
“Leung kwai,” the driver said in Mandarin, and Jack handed him the two dollars.
Jack took a window seat and shifted his Colt Detective Special along the small of his back so that it wouldn’t poke him when he sat against the worn seat cushions. A Hong Kong variety show played over a monitor behind the driver, more static than music, beneath the banter and cell-phone conversations of the other dozen passengers. Chinese-American life on the expressway, Jack mused. With Pa’s passing, he was alone at the end of the Yu family line.
He could see the Verrazano Bridge fading in the distance, the guinea gangplank, as they swerved away from the Brooklyn Chinatown.
The minibus shifted gears for the highway. From his window he saw broad residential tracts, industrial parks, high rises leading the way to the office buildings of downtown Brooklyn.
Housing projects and ghetto neighborhoods rushing by.
Jack took a deep shaolin boxer’s breath through his nose and tried to collect his thoughts. It had been six months since his return to the Chinatown precinct, before his old man passed away. His Fifth Precinct cases had taken him to West Coast Chinatowns and back to New York City, but along the way he’d processed a dozen dead bodies, had been beaten by Triad thugs, mauled by a pit bull, and shot twice. He’d also killed two men. All this, especially the last two, would be of interest to the shrink. He was advised that it’d be good to talk about it.
Cemeteries, graffitied rooftops, whistling by. The minibus shifting gears again. Billboards beckoning poor people to Atlantic City to gamble away their monthly checks.
And then, just as suddenly, the memory that there was a woman in his life now, a fiery Chinatown lawyer going through a messy divorce. They had become drinking buddies, then graduated tofriends, and finally, they’d crossed the line. They’d shared a weekend together, and now he couldn’t keep Alexandra,Alex, out of his mind.
The minibus made its gassy sprint through the edge of Brooklyn toward the Manhattan Bridge, and before he knew it he saw the icy East River below.
He thought he’d have known better than to get involved with someone going through an acrimonious divorce, with a young daughter, sure to face custody and support issues. But in light of all that had happened in Chinatown, and after, when they’d been by each other’s side, there was no longer any need to tiptoe around their feelings. They’d crossed the line that separates friends from lovers, and in the back of his cop’s mind, he wondered what the consequences would be.
The river wind reminded him of the salty scent of silk sheets, curled damp around Alex as she lay naked next to him.
He wanted to bring her something sweet.
Jack hoped to squeeze in an early bird meeting with Captain Marino, CO of the Fifth Precinct, before picking up some desserts from the Tofu King around the corner from the station house. He’d still have time to drop off the sweets at Alex’s Lower East Side storefront office, then catch a bus north for the shrink session at the Ninth Precinct. Half the plan was ambitious,touch and go. He decided to follow the possibilities and forgo whatever didn’t go with the morning’s plans.
The minibus churned across the metalwork of the span and descended into Chinatown. It careened onto Division Street and dropped its passengers off beneath the desolate bridge.
Division was a wind tunnel channeling icy gusts off the high-rise curves of Confucius Towers, whipping onto the streets below. Alex’s apartment at Confucius Towers was where they’d given in to intimacy.
Jack zipped his Gore-Tex parka up to his chin, lowered his head into the wind, and went toward Bowery. The Fifth Precinct was four blocks away, close to the Tofu King. Alex liked thebok tong go and the dao foo fa treats, he knew. He marched on until he turned the corner of the Towers. His cheeks felt windburned, his lips frostbitten, but Bayard Street was just another block. He wondered if Captain Marino had arrived early.
He exhaled steam through his upturned collar. The precinct was just a dash across Bowery now, the businesses on the empty boulevard still shuttered in the frozen Chinatown dawn. The Tofu King, however, would be open for the early bird special, a two-for-one deal on bricks of fresh tofu to kick off the day. Baker’s hours. The Chinatown grandmothers boughtjong and tofu early, before the free bowl of congee breakfast at the Seniors’ Center.
At the corner of Elizabeth Alley, Jack didn’t see the captain’s car outside the station house, but maybe one of the squad had already moved it to parking.
“The captain in yet?” Jack asked.
The uniformed officer stepping out of the station house hesitated and regarded Jack with suspicion before answering, “Haven’t seen him, but we got CompStat this morning.”
Fuhgeddaboudit, Jack imagined Marino saying. Computer statistics analysis, CompStat, could take the entire morning, if not the whole day, with Commanding Officer Marino answering to the issues and anomalies of the Chinatown precinct.
So forget the early bird catch-up meet with the good captain.
Jack turned and went down Bayard toward the Tofu King.
From the corner of Mott he could already see the steamy air gushing out of the tofu factory, the morning belch from hot bean products cooking out of the vats and slats behind the front counter and refrigerator cases.
He’d want to pay for the sweet desserts before Billy Bow, who’d inherited the third-generation family business, could dramatically refuse his money. Billy, his last neighborhood friend,eyes and ears in Chinatown, an embittered divorcé. It was just a few bucks that Jack was happy to pay, but Billy refused to value their friendship against the products of his lifeblood, tofu. So they regularly bought each other drinks at Grampa’s bar, fortifying their Chinatown bond. Two budding alcoholics feeding off each other.
Billy had an interesting take on Chinese marriage and
never needed much prodding to complain about his ex-wife.
Jack stepped into the foggy shop front and grabbed two plastic containers of bok tong go and wong tong go, angling toward the hotdao foo fa and determined to pay before Billy Bow noticed.
The cashier was on the phone, but after she hung up she refused his money in her guttural Toishanese and signaled to the next customers in line.
“Saw you on the surveillance camera,” said Billy, stepping out from behind the steaming vats of beans. “You’re an early bird today?” He eyed Jack’s bag of desserts. “That for the lawyer chick again?” He grinned. “I warned you.Baggage.”
He meant Alex’s grade-school daughter, Chloe, aka Kimberly.
Homeboy Billy, Jack mused, his eyes and ears on the street
but his nose always in other people’s business.
“Tell me again,” Jack countered, “why you got divorced.”
“Whaddya watching Oprah again? There’s a hundred reasons. How many you want?”
“I got time for one,” Jack said, grinning.
Six Skirts, Ten Shirts
Billy checked the steam vats as he began. “Okay, for one thing, we had laundry problems.” Jack narrowed his eyes skeptically.
“No, really.” Billy continued, “You know my little girls went to Transfiguration, right? Catholic school.” Jack knew, as most Chinatown residents did, the Church of the Transfiguration on Mott Street had served the Chinatown area for more than a hundred years and was a popular alternative to the rough public-school education Jack had gotten.
Billy continued, “So the girls got these school uniforms. Shirts, skirts, sweaters, like that. Two sets each, rotate from week to week, right?” Jack nodded, urging him on. “Well,wifey, she’s having everything dry-cleaned, dig? And after a while I see that it’s costing me more than the fuckin’ parking space at Confucius! And don’t get me started, that’s another fuckin’ matter. Anyway, so I took over the laundry duties. Got everything washed at Danny Chong’s Laundromat. Everything comes back folded, neat. Then I do whatever ironing myself, right? Cool.”
Jack took a shaolin patience breath as he nodded again, still refusing to interrupt Billy.
“So one day I’m ironing, right? Just the touch-up stuff. And she comes over tosupervise, starts telling me I’m doing it wrong. ‘Collar first,’ she says. ‘Then the cuffs, and sleeves,’ blah, blah, right?This advice from the mother who never lifted an iron for her girls. Supervising me. ‘And you have to put a towel under the buttons,’ she says. ‘Yeah?’ I said, ‘Who says?’ ‘Martha Stewart,’ she says. She saw it on cable. ‘Fuck Martha Stewart,’ I said. ‘This is how I been doing it, not you. Between the yum cha with the ladies, and theda mah jerk, I don’t see you ironing shit.’”
“What did she say to that?” Jack ventured.
“Called me an ignorant Chinatown lowlife.”
“No shit.” Jack laughed.
“Not for nothing, Jacky,” Billy began, his jaw clenched, “our people got history doing laundry in America. So telling a Chinaman how to iron a shirt is like telling a nigger how to eat a watermelon.”
Jack shook his head and snickered in spite of himself. A timer went off somewhere, and Billy turned to check the hot slats of tofu. Jack glanced at the wall clock and saw his chance to exit. Still, he felt bad for Billy, the bitter divorcé who found solace in loose women and the occasional whore at Chao’s.
“Gotta roll,” Jack said.
“Breeze, homeboy.” Billy grinned, looking up from the hot mist. “And remember. She’sbaggage.”
When an Asian body is found in the Harlem River, the NYPD calls Detective Jack Yu. Recently returned from the West Coast, where he killed two men and was shot himself, Yu needs to talk to a department shrink. But before he can, he's working on the homicide of the unidentified young Chinese man pulled from the water with only scraps of paper to offer leads. Yu's neighborhood friend, Billy Bow, the unofficial eyes and ears of Chinatown, who runs Tofu King, and old Chinese wisewoman Ah Por provide help, but it's Yu's persistence that eventually pays off. When Yu traces the murder of the victim, identified as restaurant deliveryman Yao Sing Chang, back to a powerful person in Chinatown, the connection puts Yu himself in danger. Chang's fourth in the Jack Yu series (after Red Jade, 2010) continues a pattern of sensitive exploration of the Chinese American community, from its rival gangs to its generational differences. Another brisk police procedural with a protagonist who manages to bridge two cultures. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.