As the second book in a series, I wish this had trusted me a bit more to have retained the characterizations and the world-building from the first. There are more asides reminding the reader who characters and of past events than feel necessary. I will be curious to see if that persists in the third installment. The protagonist remains a bit of a cipher, but what in the first felt like characterization, with extended exposure perhaps starts to feel simply shallow. All that said, I still enjoyed reading it. I like the setting and Lin builds suspense effectively. My criticisms, I think, come from feeling like these books could be even more than they are, rather than feeling them to be failures on their own terms.
Sean Stranahan is a painter, fisherman, and former private detective that has moved to Montana from New England. When a dead body is found in the river, he gets pulled into the investigation by two women: the local sheriff and a femme fatale in the form of a touring singer. The setting is well-done and is not incidental to the mystery at play which pulls together a strands of politics in the contemporary American West. I would have enjoyed even more of that, but I was pleasantly surprised to have any.
I have been on a trend of reading light mysteries for their escapist settings recently, and this is another one. Bruno is a police chief for a small village in the Dordogne who has an appreciation for food and for the cast of unusual small-town characters in the village. In these ways it serves as a predictable and comfortable cozy mystery. The murder at the center of the story, however, is itself rather gruesome, and the legacies of colonialism and World War II that frame the conflict offer some more difficult moral dilemmas than in the typical cozy read. There are a lot of books in this series, and I think I’ll continue with it.
I had the same problem with this book as I did with Nick Bilton’s Twitter book. The scene-by-scene action is well-executed and maintains a page-turning propulsion, but I’m frequently frustrated by the absence of any explicit analytical framework. This is an interesting explanation of the development of the Silk Road and of the investigation that brought it down, but has relatively little to say about the social context that created the moment in which the Silk Road could thrive. I understand that the broader market for these business and technology book-length profiles favors this approach over a more academic one. I look forward to a future generation of books on these subjects that can afford to be less broad in their appeal.