Chinese Puzzle by T.M. Raymond
As the first novel in a trilogy, T.M. Raymond’s Chinese Puzzle is full of action, mystery, facts, and lies. Raymond’s story opens with the prologue, as a harsh and wealthy man sends a telegram with his butler to an undisclosed recipient in Shanghai. When our experience begins in Shanghai, we meet two main characters – that of Zephyr Davies, a wealthy white American, and a poor, young Chinese boy, Gou Sing. Paths cross and journeys begin when Davies begins to search for a historical walking stick, encrusted with jewels and surrounded with mystery, rumors, and meaning. When Davies purchases the artifact from the antiques shop where Gou Sing is employed, he returns it to Madame Lin, his longtime family friend and current boss. Davies soon uncovers the past behind the “clouded twilight” walking stick, learning that its curse brings violence and death to those who own it. Madame Lin believes that her niece, Monica, is to blame for the Lin family heirloom’s recent unknown whereabouts and its secretive return to China; unknowing of its supposed curse, Madame Lin desires the “clouded twilight” to remain in her possession. The curse of the walking stick comes to fruition when the antique shop owner is found dead in his shop, leaving Gou Sing as the culprit. With the knowledge that Gou Sing is innocent, Davies travels to the local underground “lord” and opium smuggler, Elder Brother, to make a deal to protect Gou Sing in exchange for Davies’ loyalty and favors in the future. Before Davies makes an expedition to San Francisco for Elder Brother, he finds that Madame Lin has also been murdered, likely as a result of the “clouded twilight.” In a journey that leaves Davies in danger, confused, romantically hungry, looking for answers, and questioning his loyalties, we follow the protagonist in an adventure that is bound to continue on in the next two books of the trilogy.
T.M. Raymond has created a story that is captivating and thorough, keeping readers interested throughout the novel and projecting interest onto the coming two sequels. Each of the characters in the novel have a distinct background that is explained within the novel, creating motivations that drive the actions and personalities of the characters. Throughout the novel, readers are found to be questioning the “facts” along with Davies, who works as both the procurer of information and the detective of many situations and crimes along the way. The twists and turns that the author reveals are surprising not only to Davies, but also to readers – an uneasy feat for many writers. The language in the novel is varied for each of the characters, creating not only distinct voices but also making clear the effort that was employed by the author in the creation of such a story. The research and the interest of the author is clear to the readers, making the novel even more enjoyable. A story that is sure to interest all, this mystery is full of questions, answers, and excitement.
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