White Ginger (White Ginger Series #1)

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/12/2013
Robinson’s uneven first novel introduces Bai Jiang, a souxun (or people finder) in San Francisco’s Chinatown. When 15-year-old Yu Ma comes to Bai and begs her to find her missing friend Jia Yan (who is also 15), Bai takes on the case. Her search for Jia leads her out of her neighborhood, with its gangs, killers, and sex traffickers, to Vancouver, Canada. While Bai is equally adept at inserting herself into risky situations as she is finding people, the reader has no sense that Bai could ever fail. Bai’s emotional dilemma over the conflict between her Buddhism and use of violence comes across as far-fetched as she chooses force at almost every juncture. In addition, her penchant for going after the villains before thinking things through wears the plot thin in places, while her philosophic insights can come across as sophomoric in the face of the despicable crimes she confronts. Agent: Kimberley Cameron, Kimberley Cameron & Associates. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"A new series featuring delicious characters and an intriguing setting. . . . An unconventional, very modern take on a mystery, with dry humor and wit. Definitely worth a try!" 
 -RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 stars (Fantastic - Keeper)

"A dagger-throwing Buddhist, Bai is a one-of-a-kind protagonist. Fans of feisty female investigators will find much to like in Robinson’s first novel."
 -Booklist

“The taut writing and excellent action sequences make this debut an engrossing read. The chemistry between Bai and her ex add a sensual flavor. . . . Readers who like their suspense novels propelled by a strong female protagonist against the backdrop of a foreign culture will want to give this book a shot.”
-Library Journal

Library Journal
10/01/2013
Bai Jiang is a souxon, a people finder, working in San Francisco's Chinatown. Raised within the brutal world of the triad (Chinese organized crime), she is uniquely situated to help those in need in this secretive and brutal culture. A practicing Buddhist with a lethal fighting style, our heroine is an intriguing contradiction. This mystery opens with Bai and her partner Lee accepting an assignment to rescue a young Chinese girl sold into the sex trade. It isn't long before Bai realizes that triad politics, her ex-husband Jason, and even the safety of her daughter are in play. VERDICT The taut writing and excellent action sequences make this debut an engrossing read. The chemistry between Bai and her ex add a sensual flavor, but the Chinese proverbs titling each chapter prove a bit trying (especially since the same phrase is repeated in the chapter), and the author would do well to omit this in the next installment. Readers who like their suspense novels propelled by a strong female protagonist against the backdrop of a foreign culture will want to give this book a shot.—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616148171
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 10/8/2013
  • Series: White Ginger Series , #1
  • Pages: 290
  • Sales rank: 1,380,272
  • Product dimensions: 5.76 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.82 (d)

Read an Excerpt

WHITE GINGER


By THATCHER ROBINSON

Prometheus Books

Copyright © 2013 Thatcher Robinson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61614-818-8


CHAPTER 1

He who is drowned isn't troubled by the rain


The knife arced. Light danced off the blade as it slowly rotated three hundred sixty degrees before dropping, hilt first, into the palm of her hand. A flick of her wrist sent the dagger sailing into the air again to pirouette gracefully. Her other hand held a Chinese cup made of fine, white porcelain. She lifted the vessel to her lips and breathed in deeply, the fragrance reminiscent of fresh mowed grass. As she sipped, hot green tea filled her mouth and ran down her throat. She sighed, the first caffeine of the day.

Outside, raindrops beat against the glass panes of the window to produce a lulling sound, like leaves fluttering in the wind. The knife continued to flip, a repetitive, mindless exercise in which the rhythm never wavered, a silent chant.

"You're going to cut yourself."

Lee's warning was delivered with a frown. He sat on the sofa, dressed impeccably in tan slacks and a blue blazer, looking like a magazine model with high cheekbones, full lips, and an aquiline nose. Taller than most Chinese men, he stood six-two with broad shoulders and a small waist. Lee was her partner, her friend, and her protector. Mostly from herself.

She lifted her cup to acknowledge his admonishment. "I find it relaxing. Some people do crossword puzzles. I toss a knife. If I were doing a crossword puzzle you might have reason for concern. I'm not nearly as good with words." A sad smile set her features as she looked up to meet his gaze. "And words, I've found, can wound more deeply than a blade."

Her name was Bai Jiang, pronounced "by chang" with long vowels, a suitable moniker for a tall, willowy Chinese woman with a penchant for black leather and black jeans. Short, spiky hair, high cheekbones, and a surly attitude only served to enhance her tough image.

Her feet rested on her desk next to her computer. A screensaver flashed pictures of her daughter. At twelve, Dan had her father's features, only softened. The girl was pretty, perhaps even prettier than her mother. Bai hoped she'd be smarter. Smart enough, at least, to avoid men like her father.

Lee interrupted her thoughts. "There was a message on the phone from Tommy. He wants to see you."

"I know. I'm avoiding him."

One eyebrow lifted as he leaned forward to study her. "Triad business?"

"Unfinished business," she quickly replied, providing a smile to set him at ease. "Not to worry. Tommy and I are playing nice these days. He seems to be mellowing with age."

"Maybe it seems that way because he's your godfather," he asserted.

He seemed unconvinced of Tommy's benign nature. Tommy was Shan Chu, the head of the dragon, overlord of a local triad. Lee had good reason to be skeptical.

Her response was jaded. "Tommy's everybody's godfather."

She'd been only four when a car bomb had vaporized her parents. At the time, her late grandfather Ho Chan Jiang had headed Sun Yee On, a Hong Kong triad expanding into U.S. markets. Tommy had been Fu Shan Chu, second in command. After the death of her parents, Tommy had treated Bai as if she were his daughter. That was to say, unlike a son, she was expendable.

The bell in the lobby dinged to let them know someone had entered their outer office. She snapped the knife out of the air as she came upright in her chair. Her feet met the floor while her other hand placed the fragile cup carefully on her desk. The knife was tucked into a sheath sewn into the cuff of her jacket where it would remain out of sight.

Her office was situated in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown, a second-story walkup. There wasn't a sign on the door to indicate her occupation. Clients typically made an appointment. Their eyes met as Lee stood to walk across the polished hardwood floor toward the lobby.

"Are you expecting anyone?" she asked.

"No. You?"

She shook her head. "It's probably a lost tourist."

He opened a door and passed through to the lobby. A moment later, he returned to usher in a caller, a young, very wet Chinese girl. She stood just inside the doorway and dripped water on the shiny floor. Her head hung down to look sheepishly at the mess.

Bai's brow furrowed in contemplation as she studied the young woman in silence. Black hair in sopping strands ran down the girl's back. A too big, black leather jacket with metal studs hung from her shoulders to render her shapeless. Worn, soggy jeans, which had been strategically ripped, revealed brown goose flesh.

"'He who is drowned isn't troubled by the rain.'" Bai muttered.

The girl lifted her head and in a timid voice replied, "I don't understand."

"It's just something my grandfather used to say."

"What does it mean?"

"It means sometimes being wet is the least of your problems."

The girl looked like a drowned puppy. Bai fought an impulse to jump up and hug her. She had to remind herself strays were always trouble, regardless of the species. Her eyes narrowed at the thought.

"Are you the souxun?" the girl asked.

Souxun is pronounced "so-SOON" and translates to "people finder." Bai found lost people whether they wanted to be found or not. A natural doggedness made her good at her job.

"I am. Who might you be?"

"I'm Yu."

"Do you have a last name, Yu?"

"Yu Ma," the girl mumbled.

"Jade horse," Bai mused, voicing the English interpretation, "a pretty name. What can I do for you, Yu?"

Yu's arms hung limply at her sides, like they were new and she hadn't yet learned how to use them. Her words, when she spoke, came out in a rush. "Jia told me about you. She thinks you're really cool. She talked about you like she knew you. She said that when someone goes missing in Chinatown, White Ginger was the woman to talk to."

The girl looked up slowly, her eyes rounded in anticipation. Lips, painted dark purple, formed a tentative smile. Black mascara ran in tracks down the side of her face. Beneath all the makeup, she might have been pretty.

Her testimonial rendered Bai momentarily speechless. She wasn't used to praise, let alone that much enthusiasm, so early in the morning. "I had no idea I was cool." She glanced over at Lee to see if he appreciated how cool she was. "Why didn't you tell me I was cool?"

He grinned and shook his head. "You hide it so well. Who would know?"

She raised her eyebrows and turned back to Yu while nodding in Lee's direction. "You can see how being really cool can instill jealousy in those less fortunate. I prefer to be called Bai Jiang, by the way, not White Ginger. The translation of my name is dependent upon the dialect of Chinese being spoken, which, of course, you could care less about. All that aside," she continued, "Jia who?"

"Jia Yan. Her mother owns the Far East Café."

"Ahhh ... I see."

Mrs. Yan was a formidable woman with a reputation for being spiteful, the type of person who would spit in your coffee if she didn't like you. She didn't like a lot of people, Bai included. It seemed best not to take her malice personally since the woman showed contempt for pretty much everyone. Still, it's difficult not to take offense when someone spits in your coffee.

A good Buddhist would have forgiven the slight. Bai considered herself, at best, a mediocre Buddhist. Plagued by anger issues and an inclination for what she liked to think of as "aggressive assertiveness," her objective of achieving enlightenment had shown itself to be as elusive as the perfect weight for her height. Unprecedented growth seemed her only hope of reaching either goal.

As she contemplated her own many shortcomings, Bai remembered that Mrs. Yan had several children. She wasn't familiar with any of them. "And how do you know Jia?"

"We're best friends. Then, two days ago, she just disappeared." The girl's voice cracked and her eyes filled.

Yu's distress managed to soften Bai's initial reluctance. The only thing more heartbreaking than a stray was a weepy stray. She gestured toward the couch. "Why don't you have a seat, Yu, and tell me your story from the beginning."

Bai's office was austere, the only furniture being her desk and the leather couch situated in front of it, both styled in blond wood and tan leather. The girl's sneakers squished as she walked across the room to gingerly take a seat on the edge of the sofa.

When Yu spoke, her voice was just above a whisper. "There's not a whole lot to tell. I saw Jia at school on Wednesday. We texted that night. When she didn't show up for school, I tried calling her and texting, but she didn't answer. I went to see her mother." She hesitated again before her gaze drifted up to look at Bai. "But Mrs. Yan wasn't home. Jia's brother told me to mind my own business. Something's wrong. I can feel it. Please. You have to help me."

Bai leaned slowly back into her chair. "How old are you, Yu?"

"Fifteen."

"And how old is Jia?"

"She's fifteen. She's a sophomore, like me."

Bai turned to Lee, who rested with his back against the wall next to the door. "What do you think, Lee?"

He turned his head to look at Bai and shrugged. "It seems a small favor to ask. The Far East Café is only a few blocks away. What's the harm in looking?"

Bai closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. The thought of dealing with Mrs. Yan made her stomach churn. The woman spit out karmic poison like a PEZ dispenser. But then, if Bai didn't take the time to find the girl, and it turned out something had really happened to her, Bai'd have only herself to blame.

Opening her eyes and turning reluctantly back to Yu, she said, "Fine. You win. Do you have a dollar?"

Yu looked from Bai to Lee and back again, obviously confused. "I think so."

Bai's hand snaked its way across the top of her desk palm up. "Give me the dollar. Please."

The girl's manner was uncertain. She slowly worked a bill loose from the pocket of her wet jeans and laid the soggy dollar on Bai's outstretched palm.

Bai's fist closed around the bill. "The dollar is payment for my services," she stated with as much grace as she could muster. "We now have a contract. I'll find Jia for you."

Yu bit down on her lower lip but couldn't hide her pleasure.

Bai noted the girl's reaction and frowned. She couldn't help feeling she'd been steered, roped, and trussed, the bill in her fist binding her more tightly than any knot. Her word had been given to a stray. And strays, she remembered, were always trouble.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from WHITE GINGER by THATCHER ROBINSON. Copyright © 2013 Thatcher Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Prometheus Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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