Death by Dumpling, by Vivien Chien and the first in the A Noodle Shop mystery series, is a cozy mystery that follows Lana Lee’s amateur investigation into the murder of her family’s restaurant’s property manager Mr. Feng after Lana accidentally delivers him lethal dumplings.
The plot kicks off when Lana’s mother’s best friend Esther comes running into the restaurant with news that Mr. Feng is dead. Initially everyone thinks it’s an accident—Mr. Feng had serious shellfish allergies. But Detective Trudeau, of the Fairview Park Police Department, thinks it was murder. What’s more, he seems convinced that the Lee’s cook, Peter, is the killer. Lana can’t believe that the boy she grew up with is a cold-blooded murderer and set out with her best friend Megan to prove him innocent. But Peter’s suspicious behavior casts doubt in even Lana’s mind.
There’s a whole host of suspects in Asian Village—the shopping mall where the Lee’s restaurant is—from the deceased’s wife, to the tenants whose rent he’d threatened to raise, to his young business partner—who, incidentally, is hitting on Lana. Everyone’s got secrets to protect—what is Kimmy Tran’s second job, what was Peter arguing with Mr. Feng about, and why does Donna Feng have two birth certificates?
Lana’s got some personal stuff going on. She walked out of her last job and, to pay the rent, went to work at the family restaurant, something she’s been avoiding all her life. She also caught her last boyfriend out Christmas shopping with another woman and isn’t quite over the implosion of her love life. Adam Trudeau is the first person in a long time she’s taken an interest in, even if she won’t admit it to herself, partly because Trudeau initially treats Lana like a suspect. And in the last scene, barring the epilogue, Lana gets held at gunpoint, which leaves her with nightmares.
Death by Dumpling was fun and fairly fluffy, like most cozy mysteries, relying less on breakneck pacing or vice-tight tension that on a slow burn as the sleuth slowly gathers suspects and clues. It was a fun read and I’ll be picking up the next book, Dim Sum of All Fears.