- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Posted October 23, 2009
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (10/09)
It has been over a year and a half since Mr. Valen's first published book, "White Tombs," found its way into my hands, yet I remember it and its impact vividly. For me, it was love at first read, somewhat surprising in view of the fact that I am not a great lover of violence, evil and generally unpleasant situations. I fell in love with Mr. Valen's writing, his clever use of contemporary issues, his heroes and his insights into the human mind. I also clearly remember wishing for a sequel, or better yet, sequels.
With the sequel in front of me, I hesitated for a moment. Will it be as good as the first one or am I in for a disappointment? There was only one way to find out, so I opened it. And four hours later I sat back and finally exhaled. Just like the first one, "The Black Minute" grabbed me from the first page on, and pulled me into a complex world of evil, violence, deceit, bravery and search for justice.
The story opens with detective John Santana, Colombian-born and still haunted by his past, investigating a suspicious death of a young Hmong girl, Mai Yang. While investigating her death, Santana meets her "business associate," another young prostitute going by the name of Jenna Jones, as well as Mai's father and brother. While trying to discover what brought Mai to Harriet Island, where she met her death, Santana also questions a woman who discovered her body, Grace Chandler. Grace, daughter of a powerful politician, stirs something in Santana and he finds himself falling hard for her. Jenna is soon murdered herself, and so are several gang members with close ties to Mai Yang and her family. While most clues for those murders point straight to Mai's brother, Kou Yang, Santana is simply not convinced. Will he discover the true culprit before more innocent people die?
Once again I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of Mr. Valen's writing and storytelling. While the plot is complex and anything but predictable, his storyline stays comprehensible and easy to follow. The characters are well developed, very believable and constantly evolving. The setting of the story is vivid, detailed and engaging. While being thoroughly entertained, I also felt that I've learned a good few new facts, notably about the Hmong people and their fight, as well as details of police procedures and some other items I do not want to mention for fear of divulging too much of the story of "The Black Minute." Suffice to say that Mr. Valen again wrote an incredibly relevant story, touching on a significant number of challenges facing us today. Although I learned more about Santana and his early life than in the first book, my curiosity is anything but sated, so once again I will - impatiently! - wait on the sequel.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 19, 2014
I'm new to this author. I like the characters, especially the way Valen talks about the St. Paul, Minneapolis area. He talks about the Mississippi River and other familiar areas.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 9, 2009
I Also Recommend:
Christopher Valen did do his research, since the facts are interesting & solid, but this doesn't make up for the lack of momentum. The main characters perspective isn't hard to follow, but his description of the other characters as he introduces them are very one dimensional. The action is predictable throughout, but I have to admit, the ending is a surprise. If you need something you can read in one snow day, borrow it from the library--it's not a keeper. It only should take about 6 hours to read it's cheesiness to the unsatisfying end.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 17, 2009
St. Paul, Minnesota Homicide Detective John Santana leads the investigation into the murder of a twenty something Asian woman on Harriet Island. He learns that her name was Mai Yang, a Hmong, whose father was a general who fought on the American side during the Viet Nam war. She was also an Internet prostitute whose partner Jenna Jones is shocked.
John and his partner Kacie Hawkins interview Grace Chandler who found the body; to his shock he is attracted to her as he avoids personal entanglements since his Columbia childhood. They next visit the father who is icy cold and the brother Kou who is shocked. He heads to the Myth Club where Mai was on Saturday night to see if anyone can verify she was there and with whom. There John is further stunned by a woman who looks like his sister, whom he has not seen in two decades. When Jenna and Hmong gang members are killed, John and Kacie know they must solve the cases before a blood bath between clans and gangs occur; increasingly Kou looks guilty in what may be a vendetta in honor of his sister, but the murders have the precision of a military leader.
The second John Santana St. Paul police procedural (see White Tombs) is a terrific thriller that contains a strong investigation, insight into the hero's past in Columbia and fascinating look at immigrants. The case engages the reader as John and Kacie follow the clues. The story line includes a special freshness interwoven within the inquiry that enables the audience to obtain an interesting perspective on the similar issues confronting first generation immigrants from diverse countries with specificity on the Hmong culture in Minnesota. Christopher Valen provides the audience with his second straight winning whodunit.