I wish I would have known this was a retelling of The Brothers Karamazov before I purchased this book and got all excited about it. I probably never would have picked it up. There is a reason that I have never read any of Dostoyevsky’s stuff (or Tolstoy for that matter).
The Family Chao follows the titular family, owners of a Chinese restaurant in a small town in America. The parents of the family are immigrants from China, and there are three sons. When the patriarch, who is a huge jerk and almost unredeemable, is murdered, the oldest son is arrested for the murder. There are a plethora of side characters who also get involved in the drama. Money is not an insignificant issue. And, now that I have read the Wikipedia summary of The Brothers Karamazov, I am impressed at how faithful this story was able to remain to it.
So, this is not a fun, charming murder mystery with a side of cozy, it is a depressing murder mystery about a dysfunctional family who also get to face racism in their community, oh and their dog goes missing. I had a really hard time getting emotionally involved in this story after the first twenty or so pages (which were the most charming part). The best part of the book for me was the murder trial, but that’s just because I love a murder trial and it’s really hard for me not to like one in a book. The author plays with format during the trial, which was also fun to read.
The rest of the book was just unpleasant and depressing, not unlike how I imagine those Russian classics that I refuse to read might be.
To sum up: beware the packaging on this one, it’s not what it seems.
[2.5 stars, rounded up]