My introduction to the work of S.J. Rozan took the form of a short story. After reading one or two of her novels, I was telling friends on the internet that this writer was a major talent, someone I believed would be a strong voice in mystery.
With the publication of STONE QUARRY, the sixth book in Rozan's Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series, St. Martins Press has proved me right - but then, I knew that about the time that CONCOURSE, won the Shamus Award back in 1995. Rozan has not only developed a continually fascinating series, with fully developed characters, well-described settings (mostly in and around New York City), but she has successfully created a series with two distinct voices. In books one, three and five, Lydia Chin takes the narrative. She is a young, optimistic Chinese-American private eye who tries to balance the needs of her family and her own need to declare her independence and intelligence. The older, far more cynical private eye Bill Smith takes the lead in the other books. STONE QUARRY is, technically a "Bill Smith" book, while Lydia still participates. While Smith seems to fit the mold of he standard white guy p.i., he is anything but typical and is as interesting as his more "exotic" partner.
In this dark mystery, Bill is in upstate New York where he's had a house for years - a place he retreats to. He's in town primarily to assist Eve Colgate, a somewhat reclusive resident who wants him to check out a theft, without reporting that theft to the police. He is as well known as anyone in the area, but still seen as an outsider; even when he helps someone, he's somewhat resented. There is corruption, there's the arrogance of wealth and small-town attitudes for Bill to deal with. He calls Lydia, who is clearly out of her element in this rural setting, but still insistent on helping her friend and some-time partner.
STONE QUARRY continues an excellent series. It tells you more about Smith and Chin, two of the most intelligently drawn private eyes in modern day. Rozan, who won the Anthony for best novel for A COLDER PLACE, writes as effectively about this dark place as she does the bright lights of Chinatown and the upper west side and Brooklyn. The conflicts between Lydia's fairly upbeat attitudes and Bill's world-weariness only serve to highlight the way the two characters care for each other and keep each other balanced, keep each other from going off the deep end in either direction. This is truly one of the best mystery series available today - never a disappointment, cleanly, sharply written with warmth and wit and compassion, but the author never forgets to tell the story.