Here’s my (okay, I know, totally shallow) literary fantasy: to walk along a beach filled with people reading my book, whole rows of them in canvas deck chairs, shaded by big umbrellas.
I might stop here and there to ask, “What is that you’re reading? Is it any good?”
Of course, every single person would reply, “Oh! My! God! This is the absolute best book I have ever read!” I might humbly admit to having written it, whip out the pen I kept handy in my fanny pack for such moments, and offer to sign it. Or I might just smile and promise, at the reader’s urgent request, to proceed immediately to the bookstore, then cancel all other forms of entertainment to read it because it is so great that once I start it there’s no way I’ll be able to put it down.
Seeing people reading my book on airplane as I sauntered down the aisle would be groovy, too; I always have loved a captive audience. But the beach would be sublime—secondary only to having a gargantuan window display of my book in the wonderful old Scribner’s store on Fifth Avenue, which, alas, has been closed for some time now and no longer in the running.
So far, the best I’ve been able to do is beg people I know to have their pictures taken reading my book on the beach—a service I like to provide for my writer friends. Thus the dreadful picture of myself reading my friend S.J. Rozan’s fabulous book, The Shanghai Moon.
In this most recent of her Lydia Chin & Bill Smith series, Lydia is hired to track down a Chinese official believed to be in New York for the purpose of selling jewels that were stolen during an excavation in Shanghai—among them, the Shanghai Moon, a diamond and jade pendant said to be worth millions of dollars, which disappeared in the chaotic aftermath of World War II.
The case turns ugly early on—and Lydia (with the help of Bill, who’s desperately trying to get back into her good graces after their falling out in Winter and Night) is increasingly drawn into the web of intrigue surrounding the Shanghai Moon.
She’s also drawn into the story of Rosalie, a young Jewish refuge, when her research unearths a cache of letters from Rosalie to her mother, left behind in Austria. Rosalie meets Kai-rong on the long train journey to Shanghai and, when they marry, they have the Shanghai Moon made from an ancient jade from Kai-rong’s family and a diamond that belonged to Rosalie’s mother.
The history lesson in The Shanghai Moon is as compelling as the mystery itself. I had no idea that Shanghai had provided a safe haven for thousands of Jews during WWII, and I really loved the way that world came so fully alive through the story of Rosalie and Kai-rong.
The ending is perfect in all ways, the kind that makes you think simultaneously, "Holy cow!" and "Of course."
So. Whether you’re looking for a book to read on the beach, or—anywhere, I highly recommend this one. Just beware: once you start it, you won’t be able to put it down.