The star of the series is Lana Lee, a twentysomething woman who works at her mother’s Chinese restaurant after losing her office job. In the first book, Lana wants nothing more than to leave the noodle shop and get back to her former career. She doesn’t mind being a waitress, but she doesn’t like spending so much time with her family. Plus, relying on them makes her feel like a failure. When the owner of the shopping center dies and the noodle shop’s chef is accused of murder, Lana feels she must investigate. In helping catch a killer, Lana finds two new passions, detective work and a handsome detective.
The Noodle Shop Mysteries are a lot of fun. The first book is a little rocky because it’s setting up the series, but there’s so much to love. Lana has a lot of spunk and it’s easy to root for her. I love her relationship with her family and how Chien is letting it evolve in the books. Lana’s relationship with her best friend, Megan, feels very real, and it’s wonderful to see a heroine with a strong female friend. I like how Chien developed Lana’s relationship with Detective Adam Trudeau. It’s loving and supportive, without needless drama or angst.
My only real complaints about the series are that all the men are in love with Lana and she keeps getting herself in dangerous situations. Lana and the other characters have grown throughout the series, so I have hope that Chien will address both these points in future books.
Books in the series:
Book 1: Death by Dumpling
After a bad break-up and losing her job, Lana Lee is working as a waitress at her mother’s Chinese restaurant, Ho-Lee Noodle House. When the shopping center’s property owner dies from an allergic reaction to his lunch from Ho-Lee Noodle House, suspicion falls on chef Peter. But Lana knows Peter is innocent! Can she prove it?
Lana is kind of annoying and the tone feels uneven. But it shows a lot of potential to be amazing and the end is great. Not a bad start for a new author.
Book 2: Dim Sum of All Fears
Lana’s parents go out of town, leaving her in charge of the restaurant. As if that weren’t annoying enough, Lana discovers she’s good at managing the restaurant. Then the newlyweds who own the shop next to the Noodle House are brutally murdered. Lana knows she should let the police handle it, but she feels compelled to investigate.
I liked Lana so much more in this book. She’s stronger, more confident, and less whiny. I can’t really remember much about the mystery, but to me, these books are more about the characters than the murders.
Book 3: Murder Lo Mein
Lana is officially the manager of Ho-Lee Noodle House! And just in time for the annual Cleveland Best Noodle Contest. Lana is sure it’s Peter and the restaurant’s year to win, but all bets are off when the judge is found dead in his bowl of lo mein. Once again, Peter is a suspect. Can Lana find the killer in time?
Chien really finds her groove as a mystery writer in this book. It’s a well-constructed story, with plenty of twists and turns.
Book 4: Wonton Terror
Summer brings the return of Cleveland’s Night Market, a weekly event featuring local businesses. Lana and Peter are working the Ho-Lee Noodle House booth when a food trailer explodes. Lana feels she must investigate because the owner used to be a friend of Lana’s parents.
The first chapter of this book is worthy of 5 stars because Chien writes it with such detail that you feel like you are at the Night Market. But, the rest of the book, while fun, is a bit of a let down. It was easy to justify Lana’s involvement in the previous investigations, but not in this one. I felt the murderer was obvious and Lana was careless with her own safety. I did like how her relationship with Adam is progressing.
Book 5: Egg Drop Dead
Ho-Lee Noodle House is catering a private party at Donna Feng’s house when Donna’s nanny is found dead in the pool. The police quickly zero in on Donna as the prime suspect, so she begs Lana to help clear her name. Lana wants to help her friend, but the more she learns about Donna, the more she wonders if she’s guilty.
Definitely my least favorite of the series. The characters are really the strength of the series and this one had too much Lana working the mystery and not enough of Lana’s friends and family.