She Walks The Line
She Walks the Line is an interesting story, but wooden characters and a slow pace keep it from being much more than that.
Mei Lu Ling is a Houston police officer from a traditional Chinese family that isn’t supportive of her career. Her father believes she should be working in the family’s antiques business, while her mother thinks she shouldn’t be working at all, focusing her energies on finding a suitable husband instead. Mei also has to deal with the attitudes of some of her fellow officers who have a “boy’s club” mentality.
Then her chief assigns her to work with insurance investigator Cullen Archer on the case of some stolen Chinese antiquities. Cullen needs her translating skills and her contacts in Houston’s Chinese community. There’s immediate friction between them, because he believes her father might be involved in some of the thefts. But when several smugglers turn up dead, Cullen needs her help too much to have her removed from the case. Mei is convinced that her father is innocent, and intends to prove it.
Series books (or romances in general) featuring heroines of Chinese ancestry aren’t exactly common, which is why I’ve been looking forward to this book for the last few months. In that respect, the book delivered. Mei is a unique heroine, and the author does an admirable job portraying her culture and the issues she has to deal with. The mystery plot was intriguing, even if it takes a while to get going (more on that in a moment). The author seems to have done her research, and the details of the investigation and the priceless treasures they’re searching for feel believable.
The parts dealing with the heroine, her background, and the investigation are the book’s strongest. Other than that, there’s not much here to hold the reader’s interest. The book is generally well-written, but never all that compelling or engaging. The characters are sympathetic, but they lack that extra dimension that lets readers feel like they know their hearts and minds. Despite the many things the author tells us about them, they remain too stiff and distant, never popping fully to life.
The story moves somewhat slowly. The investigation takes a while to get underway, because the characters are distracted by other business. Cullen’s a divorced father of twins, and his parenting issues and reckless ex-wife slow down the plot. Some elements also seem forced, like Mei’s initial suspicion that Cullen’s ex might be involved in the thefts, which seemed like a big stretch. Meanwhile, the book is part of the Women in Blue miniseries about six female cops who are also friends. This is the only one I’ve read, so the constant references early on to the other women and past storylines were distracting and obtrusive. Other than the chief, I couldn’t really tell them apart and certainly didn’t appreciate them taking away from this story.
I had high hopes for She Walks the Line, but in the end it was merely an acceptable read. The plot and the details of the heroine’s culture were interesting enough to keep me reading, but that’s really all the book has to offer (although it does have an attractive cover). Readers looking for a heart-stirring love story or vivid characters won’t find them, but the book does offer a view of a culture not often portrayed in romances. That may be enough to make it worth a look. Otherwise, it’s an average read while it lasts, no more, no less.