Death by Bubble Tea
reviewed by Pam Guynn
Jennifer J. Chow’s new cozy mystery focuses on family. Death by Bubble Tea is the first book in the LA Night Market series and features Yale Yee and her cousin Celine. Yale has just been laid off from her job at a bookstore when Celine arrives from Hong Kong.
Not only is she expected to play tour guide to someone she hasn’t seen since she was ten, but her father wants the two of them to run a food stall at the Eastwood Village Night Market. Their bubble tea turns out to be a hit with customers, but later than night Yale finds one of their customers dead. Suddenly she and Celine are the top suspects so they decide to play sleuth.
Yale and Celine have very different personalities. Yale loves to read, avoids driving by walking or using public transportation, doesn’t have a cell phone, and would have preferred living in the past. She categorizes personalities of the people she meets by using food characteristics. Celine’s parents are wealthy and she is used to an extravagant lifestyle. She’s a social media influencer and used to things going her way. Readers get their backstories gradually. Despite their differences, it was fascinating to see how each of them grew and developed over the course of the novel. The secondary characters are culturally diverse and provide either support or conflict. However, who is the killer?
Despite a large number of characters, the characterization is done well and I had no trouble remembering who was who. The food descriptions and setting were well done. The dialogue flowed well and felt natural except in a couple of places. The story gradually builds momentum and there are numerous suspects. However, the pacing seemed too slow at times. I enjoyed the humor that was interspersed within the novel and thought the author’s take on the manner of death was original. However, the ending was a little abrupt. Themes included family relationships, community, grief, friendship, food, loyalty, and murder. At the end of the book are two recipes.
Overall, this was an engaging novel with humor, suspense, a lot of sleuthing, and a little action. If you enjoy sleuth mysteries, then I recommend that you check out this one. I am looking forward to finding out what happens in the next book in the series. Will Yale still be the lead character, or will it switch to another member of the Night Market?
Berkley Publishing Group and Jennifer J. Chow provided a complimentary digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley. This is my honest review. Opinions are mine alone and are not biased in any way. Publication date is currently set for July 5, 2022.