First off, I want to wish everyone a happy holiday! I’m having a good holiday myself – definitely enjoying my daughter’s visit. (I don’t have time to read much around the holidays, so this is actually a post I wrote a few weeks ago. So I might still be a bit slower on approving comments for a while longer.)
In many ways, I would call this a very traditional modern-style Cozy. Half-Taiwanese, half-English Lana Lee has recently come off of a bad breakup, as well as quitting her job that she wasn’t happy at, and is spending time working at her family’s noodle house until she can pull her life back together. Though she hadn’t seen herself working there in her late twenties, she’s making the best of things until the area’s landlord is found dead – apparently killed by an allergic reaction caused by the dumplings she brought to him for his regular lunch delivery.
Naturally, there’s an irritating-but-hunky detective investigating the case, many neighbors all with their own theories (and varying levels of eccentricity), and unusual behavior on the part of the bereaved family and many others in the community.
So far, no doubt this all sounds like very familiar ground. Fortunately, what really helps make this book feel different from the many other Cozies like it is the interesting and unusual backdrop for a Cozy in Cleveland’s Asian Village.
While I still love the traditional quaint villages of England and New England alike, every so often it is nice to see a slightly different backdrop for otherwise comfortable Cozy elements, and setting the story in an area that feels culturally different feels like something of a breath of fresh air.
At the same time, many of the useful conventions of the Cozy genre can still apply – while the community might be part of a “big city” like Cleveland, the residents of the Asia Village have their own distinct community that an outsider (like the police, investigating the death of one of the residents) might find harder to penetrate.
Altogether, Death by Dumpling brings together a mystery that has a unique setting for the Cozy genre, one that (at least to me) feels as authentic as the Amish villages, New England fishing towns, and English countryside communities that are more often the hallmark of the Cozy subgenre. At the same time, it retains enough of the “Cozy” elements that I know we’re all looking for to help relax with a good book. If you’re looking for a familiar Cozy with an interestingly different sort of backdrop from the usual Cozy village, then I think that you’ll find something to like in Death by Dumpling.
If you want to read some of the other entries about highly recommended Cozy Mystery series, you can see them on the Most Recommended Cozy Mystery Series page.