Return to Dust: A Rick Van Lam Mystery
Poisoned Pen, Oct 6 2015, $26.95
In Farmington, Connecticut, house cleaner Marta Kowalski tumbles off the Farmington River Bridge to her death. The FPD quickly concludes she committed suicide. Though he detested Marta’s inability to silently clean his home, Amerasian insurance fraud investigator Rick Van Lam sends flowers but feels he has no reason to attend the funeral of an acquaintance he employed.
Marta’s niece Karen Corcoran disagrees with the official cause of death. She pleads with Rick to investigate. Even though he knows Karen has a powerful monetary incentive to get the ruling changed as Marta’s beneficiary, Rick agrees to look into her aunt’s death. Inside Marta’s home, Rick finds no evidence of a depressed person, but instead learns the deceased was a devout Catholic; which makes killing herself less likely. As he interviews people who knew Marta, Rick finds many adored and cherished her; while others like her nephew and a gardener loathed her; but a motive for murder remains elusive.
The second Rick Van Lam investigation (see Caught Dead) is an excellent Vietnamese-American whodunit in which the sleuthing provides a fabulous look at the subculture. The strong cast starting with the late housecleaner turns this into a terrific mystery.