Jeannie Lin’s Lotus Palace Mysteries hit a trifecta of unusual setting, richly drawn characters, and engaging plots. The Hidden Moon, book four in this series, continues this record, and I’m happy to be able to recommend it.
Who would dare assassinate a chancellor on the very steps of the Chinese capital? Bai Wei-ling (Wei-wei to her intimates) may be merely the sister of the man tasked with investigating the chancellor’s death, but for three very good reasons, she can’t stand aside. First, her brother can’t possibly handle the task alone in just six days. Second, Wei-wei has a wild streak, and sneaking about the capital in disguise is precisely the kind of action she secretly craves. And lastly, involving herself in this enquiry is her only way to justify encountering Gao, an impoverished street enforcer who holds far too much appeal for the aristocratic Lady Bai.
I enjoy settings which explore a different mindset. Wei-wei lives within a culture where the opportunities for upper-class women are limited and she must prioritize her usefulness to her family. She was given an education so that she could tutor her brothers, and she manages to justify her personal desire for adventure with the fact that it’s in service to her brother Bai Huang’s career. Despite the fact that any romance reader knows that she and Gao will come together despite their class difference, the author makes us see that they are truly different, in a way that the authors of many historicals don’t (Gao is illiterate, for instance). Gao broke my heart with his decision to propose to Wei-wei, not out of hopes for success, but because “I just wanted to ask.”
While admitting that I’m not well-versed in mysteries, I’d describe this as a procedural (following an investigation), with a negligible violence factor. I always prefer that to mysteries which place me in the heads of brutal serial killers.
Cheers to the author for bringing in protagonists of the previous books in the series without them being even vaguely annoying. Both Yueying and Mingyu are content, but they are realistically living with their choices. Bai Huang and Wu Kaifeng play roles in this book (especially Bai Huang) but without being a superman and often being an obstacle to Wei-wei.
My all-time favorite Jeannie Lin is another of the Lotus Palace Mysteries, The Jade Temptress. However, The Hidden Moon is also an excellent and transportative read. It’s always nice when a series you’ve enjoyed maintains its quality. I have thoroughly enjoyed every installment, and this book is no exception, so if you haven’t started the series yet, do – there’s a lot of great reading ahead.
Buy it at: Amazon or shop at your local independent bookstore
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