Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Snakehead by Peter May

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Snakehead by Peter May. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Snakehead by Peter May

by
A Li Yan and Margaret Campbell Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-606-9 (1590586069)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-606-8 (9781590586068)
Publication Date: February 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: A deadly and contagious strain of Spanish Flu, illegal Chinese immigrants crossing the border at Mexico, a former lover that was never forgotten, all of these contribute to the success of Snakehead by Peter May. Snakehead is the second book in the Beijing series.

The story starts with the raising of a sunken submarine in the Arctic, filled with the corpses of men who died from an unexplained, terrible disease. Flash forward to Texas, where we meet Dr. Margaret Campbell, Chief Medical Examiner of Harris County, the third largest in the United States. She is called to investigate the mystifying deaths of 98 Chinese found hidden in the back of a truck trailer. Li Yan, the criminal justice liaison from China, and former lover of Dr. Campbell, is sent to Texas to help oversee the process and prevent further embarrassment for China. He has currently been living the Washington DC area, unbeknownst to Dr. Campbell, for the past year. During the autopsies of the bodies, a peculiar needle mark is found on the corpses. Blood tests eventually determine that each immigrant had been injected with Spanish Flu, a deadly virus that was thought to be eradicated. But who is the snakehead that is smuggling these Chinese into the country? At $60,000 a person, he stands to lose almost $6 million. Why are they being injected with the deadly virus? Is this some part of a terrorist plot? How many other illegal Chinese immigrants have already arrived in this country, carrying the deadly virus? What of Margaret and Li, can they bridge the gap between two cultures and live happily ever after? You will have to read Snakehead to find out.

Snakehead was an exciting, medical mystery that had me captured from the first page. May’s descriptive writing helped me to easily envision the scenes as they unfolded. “A frozen sun shone in the palest of clear blue skies … tiny colored ice particles dancing in clouded breath.” The description of medical forensics was just as thorough. The characters faced real life struggles, making the reader care about what happened to them. Margaret and Li clearly belong together, but can they get around their differences, forget the past, and forge ahead together in the future? The mystery itself was challenging, however, I was able to figure out who the snakehead was, and who engineered the Spanish Flu virus before I finished the novel. But that is what is so enjoyable about reading a mystery novel, being able to solve it before the last page.

This novel earns a 4.5 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed reading this novel and want to read the first book in this series, and the sequels, to learn more about the relationship between Margaret and Li. If you enjoy medical mysteries with a romantic twist, then Snakehead is the one for you.

Special thanks to Ruth Miller for contributing her review of Snakehead and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Ruth Miller — All Rights Reserved — Reprinted with Permission

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Synopsis (from the publisher): American pathologist Margaret Campbell finds herself back on home soil, only to be faced by a truck full of dead Chinese and an unavoidable confrontation with her past.

Beijing detective Li Yan, now based at the Chinese embassy in Washington, is dispatched to find out how his fellow countrymen suffocated in a sealed refrigeration unit in southern Texas only to find himself face-to-face with the woman who walked out of China, and his life, to return to the U.S.

Tasked to work together again to find out who is behind the $100 million trade in illegal Chinese immigrants which led to the tragedy in Texas, they discover that the immigrants were unwitting carriers of a deadly cargo.

And still wrestling with the demons of their pasts, Li and Margaret find themselves racing against time to defuse a biological time-bomb that threatens to wipe out not only their future, but that of humankind.

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