Brandy Alexander is the head bartender and manager of Olive or Twist, a dive bar in the Milwaukee suburb of West Allis. By book number 3 in the series, she’s also an amateur detective, having solved two cases that affect the bar. Helping her are her best friend Emily and cozy mystery-loving sister Ginny, as well as various bar patrons and staff.
Book 3 begins with almost everyone at the bar being rushed to the emergency room after being poisoned. The poison is quickly identified as eye drops and the police think it was either a prank or an accident. But with the bar’s owner missing, local gossip turning against the bar, and a favorite customer convinced it was part of an ongoing attempt on his life, Brandy and friends launch an investigation.
First, the good. One thing I love about the Dive Bar Detective series is that the mysteries are unusual and really interesting. While the credit card fraud in book 1 was my favorite, I thought the poisoning in this book was well done. I love Brandy’s relationships with Emily and Ginny. Brandy and Ginny’s love for and annoyance at each other is such a great example of sisters. The bar regulars and staff are funny, eclectic characters.
But the bad in this book is really bad.
I actually finished this book a few months ago and have been debating how to review it. I love the series and I want to support new authors, but I thought the portrayal of the Vietnamese characters in this book was horribly racist. I’ve read all the reviews I can find (there aren’t many) and I seem to be the only person who finds it racist. I started to wonder if I’m being over sensitive. But here we are months later and I still find it racist. There’s a scene where Brandy and Emily go to a Vietnamese family’s home. There are twenty or so non-English speaking relatives living together, tending livestock in the backyard, and basically running a sweatshop in the house. These are the only Asian characters in the series. I’m disappointed in the authors, and shocked that an editor and publisher approved this. Clearly, none of them thought this was racist, which brings up a whole other host of issues. I second-guessed myself for a long time after reading this, wondering if I was being over sensitive, and I kept coming back to no, I’m not. Why didn’t anyone involved in this book question the portrayal of the Asian characters?