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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Asian Detective Novel: From Racist Caricature To Authentic Representation, by Pooja Makhijani, Literary Hub

Over the decades, a number of white, often male, authors have created Asian protagonists, many of whom have fallen into the same Orientalist trap: Eliot Pattison’s Beijing Justice Department Investigator Shan Tao Yun, John Burdett’s “philosophical” Royal Thai Police Force detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, and Colin Cotterill’s French-trained national coroner of Laos Dr. Siri Paiboun. These writers have been criticized for bringing an unmistakably foreign and exoticized take on the countries where their mysteries are set. Brian Thao Worra, an award-winning Laotian American writer, laments that all of Jitpleecheep’s adventures are set in or near Thailand’s red-light districts and feature “lots of exotic deaths and kinky eroticism.”

However, in recent years, more mysteries and thrillers by Asian writers, often first published to wide acclaim in their home countries, have been published in the United States, perhaps due to a desire for a more authentic portrayal of Asians and an increased interest in crime fiction set outside traditional borders. Here is a short introduction to nine Asian authors writing with more intimate knowledge of their identities and settings.

One Young Man’s Life Served Up Four Ways, by Tom Perrotta, New York Times

“4 3 2 1” is a very long novel — it’s actually four books in one, or at least three and a third — and like many gargantuan tomes, it loses steam and focus in the final stretch. In addition to the parade of forgettable post-Amy lovers, there’s too much textbook-style rehashing of the political turmoil of the ’60s (including an exhaustive account of the student unrest at Columbia University in 1968), and more about the minuscule particulars of young Ferguson’s literary and journalistic careers than most readers will care to know. But despite these flaws, it’s impossible not to be impressed — and even a little awed — by what Auster has accomplished. “4 3 2 1” is a work of outsize ambition and remarkable craft, a monumental assemblage of competing and complementary fictions, a novel that contains multitudes.

'Six Wakes' Is A Nerve-Tingling Interstellar Murder Mystery, by Jason Heller, NPR

Lafferty is best known for her groundbreaking working as a geek-culture podcaster, but over the last couple years she's come into her own as a novelist — and Six Wakes drives that point home. With pitch-perfect pacing and dialogue, she unfolds the investigation aboard the Dormire with chilling grace.

How Restaurants Literally Stay Warm In Winter, by Amy McKeever, Eater

When you walk into New York City’s landmark Tribeca Grill in the dead of winter, you may not even notice one small but important detail: You’re instantly warm thanks to a strong heater inside an enclosed foyer. “The aesthetic of walking from the cold into a warm restaurant is a nice thing, so we blast that thing in the cold weather so people know right away it’s nice and hospitable,” explains owner Drew Nieporent.

It’s just one element — so tiny that it’s often an afterthought when designing a restaurant — but winterization can change a dining experience. Nobody wants to sit too close to the door in a drafty restaurant, shivering through the cold gusts of wind that blow in every time someone crosses the threshold. There’s good reason that’s one of the worst seats in the house.