Janice Cameron left Hawaii for New York City to become a writer. She’s hardly there when her pending eviction, the post-war housing shortage, and exorbitant rents make finding a place to live a necessity. Her advertisement looking for a roommate is answered by Lily Wu, who is also looking to share a room. Just a few caveats—the room must be in a certain house in Washington Square, and they must move in that night. Curious as to Lily’s reasons, but not really having any other choice, Janice agrees. She’s soon questioning Lily’s motives, as well as those of some of her new housemates, especially when the building superintendent is found dead in the basement.
The Chinese Chop is a quite different kind of mystery. Sheridan has given us a singular twist on the amateur crime-solving duo with two women. Women detectives are nothing new in fiction, but here we have Lily Wu, an Asian female, as the principal detective and Janice Cameron, a Caucasian woman, as her Watson. They are spirited, intelligent, and individual. This is the first in a series, with three more books to follow, and the pair are not yet a “team”. The enigmatic Lily has a definite agenda, of which Janice is initially suspicious, but over the course of the story they come to know and trust each other. And while Lily may be the driving force behind the investigation, Janice is no passive second banana. And very surprising for a book written in this time period, there is not even a sniff of a man coming to their rescue—or the need for it.
Oh yes, the mystery is also quite good too. The house is full of eccentric individuals, any of who could be the culprit. Yet even with a closed circle of suspects Sheridan does a very good job at keeping the identity of the murderer under cover. The story is by no means static, containing quite a bit of intrigue, suspense, and action.
A very entertaining and satisfyingly read.
My Judgment – 4/5
Vintage Mystery Extravaganza – 2013 Scattergories – #37 Get Out of Jail Free: The characters of Lily Wu and Janice Cameron are both from Hawaii—as am I!
Calendar of Crime – January #5 Other January Holiday: Chinese New Year Jan. 29, 1949