ARC Review, Book Review, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller

Black Jade – A Daiyu Wu Mystery (Daiyu Wu Mysteries, #1) by Gloria Oliver

Could an old-fashioned ballgown be used to commit murder?

Daiyu Wu is aware that fear of the Yellow Terror has made her nationality a rare breed in the Lone Star State. Being Chinese and blind makes her doubly unique in 1930 Dallas. Despite these impediments, anyone who dismisses her for either fact does so at their peril.

One day, at her family-owned laundry business, Dai detects the scent of burned garlic. With the help of her companion, Jacques, the source is soon discovered. It is a green ballgown. The gown has money pinned inside it to pay for the cleaning, but oddly, it came with no address label to identify its owner. Her extensive knowledge leads Dai to believe someone has committed murder using arsenic. The perpetrator is trying to use White Laundry to hide the evidence. But no mention of foul play turns up in the newspapers, and there’s not enough proof to convince the police there’s been a crime.

Her curiosity and intellect stimulated like never before; Dai ignores the possible consequences and sets out to solve the mystery with the help of her canine companion, Prince Razor, and her confidant, Jacques Haskins. It’s either that or let the killer get away with it — assuming a spoiled popinjay, his jealous self-appointed girlfriend, and Dai’s overprotective parents don’t get in her way.

Cozy mysteries, I forgot how fun they can be, amateur sleuths taking on the puzzles with the help of a few friends, families, colleagues, and/or strangers. They are fun to read and watch on tv. The sleuths can be creative and go to areas they do not have to get a warrant like law enforcement. This book was fun. It checked all the boxes for this genre and added the extra historical feature. Tempo of the story was good for the genre. I, as a reader, am used to the fast pace of fantasy, and had to reset my brain for the slower pace. This book was a wonderful introduction and set up for the rest of the series. 

The main character, Daiyu (or Di for short) Wu, is smart, observant, quirky, and has a thirst for learning. She is not afraid to ask questions and/or be upfront on her feelings. Di doesn’t let her blindness stop her, and I think she uses it towards her advantage, as in, she can use her heightened senses for the smallest things we, who have sight, would overlook. She is a sleuth you can tell when holding something back or thinking things over. I enjoyed this character. For me, she was a well-written character and am looking forward to more growth and development in future novels. 

We do not see the story from Daiyu’s perspective. Instead, we see the story through her handler/ childhood companion, Jacques. Taken in as a child, Jacques, treats Daiyu and the Wu family with respect and care. What I like about this character is he acts like her brother and protector. He tries to understand what goes through Di’s mind as they both try to solve the puzzle. I believe Jacques is the one who keeps Di on the ground, or when she allows him to, because she is naïve of the outside world. 

Our two other cast members are just as well written. I love how both of them bring something to the story. Dr. Aiden Campbell is introvert and self-conscious, smart, and observant, but also blunt. Dr. Campbell opens up when into their work and comfortable when around someone they trust. Truman Pierce is the very opposite of Dr. Campbell. He is an extrovert and, what can I say, full of himself. But Truman is kind of teddy bear when you get him away from the spotlight. While Di approached Dr. Campbell, Truman buts his way in. These characters were fun to read, and I hope they make appearances in future novels.

The set is during the 1930s Dallas, Texas. I know very little next to nothing about this era, but fortunately you do not need to. As a reader, you can understand the story. The way the author intertwines the story with this era brings you into this world with no problems. There is the Chinese racism during this time, and brought into the story, but it was not so much to bring you out.

This book was a good read. It was refreshing seeing a nontraditional character, as in a blind character, as the lead character. I recommend this book if you like amateur sleuth stories and historical cozy mysteries.  

*I received an ARC from the author, and this is my honest opinion.

I give this book a 4/5

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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