Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves Paperback – Jul 8 2014
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Lowry's wry debut combines a caper story with foodie culture in an entertaining mix
a zestful first novel." - Publishers Weekly "Lowry's fast-paced tale is reminiscent of Kurt Russell's Big Trouble in Little China , or an off-center Philip Marlowe from a Raymond Chandler story. That is, it's a chaotic, intriguing, and fun read that delivers quite a punch." - Booklist
"Lowry's engaging first novel is as accomplished as its young hero-smart, skillful, self-possessed. And who wouldn't love a hipster martial arts devotee who cooks authentic Asian cuisine? Warning: do not read this book without a good Chinese restaurant on speed-dial!" - Hilary Fields, author of Bliss
"The clever and unique mix of martial arts, Chandler-worthy banter, mouth-watering feasts, and an extremely likable protagonist made me want join chef Tucker and his coterie for Chinese food and late-night sleuthing. Absolutely delicious." - Sarah Skilton, author of Bruised
" Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is a road-tripping love story spiced with snappy repartee and a dash of running-for-your-life, told by a memorable narrator who never picks up strangers at a highway rest stop - unless they speak Mandarin. An enjoyable, witty, comic adventure that will also make you very, very hungry." - Kristina Riggle, award-winning author of The Whole Golden World "
From the Back Cover
The clever and unique mix of martial arts, Chandler-worthy banter, mouth-watering feasts, and an extremely likable protagonist made me want join chef Tucker and his coterie for Chinese food and late-night sleuthing. Absolutely delicious. Sarah Skilton, author of "Bruised"
Driving home after being kicked out of college, Tucker meets and picks up the mysterious Corinne Chang at a rest stop. Infatuated, and with nothing better to do, he ends up with her in St. Louis, where he gets a job as a chef in a Chinese restaurant. Even though he s a "lao wai" foreign devil his cooking skills impress the Chinese patrons of the restaurant, and his wooing skills impress Corinne when she joins him there as a waitress. But when Chinese gangsters show up demanding diamonds they believe Tucker s kind-of, sort-of, don t-call-her-a-girlfriend stole, he and his friends which luckily include a couple of FBI agents have to figure out just who is gunning for Corinne and how to stop them. Good thing Tucker is a Mandarin-speaking martial artist who isn t afraid to throw the first punch.
With its one-of-a-kind hero, "Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves" is perfect for anyone who loves cooking, Chinese culture, bad jokes, and young love. Diamonds are forever . . . unless Chinese mobsters decide they want them back.
Lowry s engaging first novel is as accomplished as its young hero smart, skillful, self-possessed. And who wouldn t love a martial arts devotee who cooks authentic Asian cuisine? Warning: do not read this book without a good Chinese restaurant on speed-dial! Hilary Fields, author of "Bliss"
Lowry s wry debut novel combines a caper story with foodie culture in an entertaining mix . . . a zestful first novel. "Publishers Weekly"
DAVE LOWRY is the restaurant critic for St. Louis Magazine and writes regularly for a number of magazines on a wide variety of subjects, many of them related to Japan and the Japanese martial arts. He is the author of numerous nonfiction books.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Tucker and Langston have been practicing martial arts together since they were little boys – a soft internal Chinese style. This will prove handy in the adventures Tucker has ahead of him. The adventures begin in earnest when Tucker meets a Chinese girl in a rest stop. She's stranded, for undisclosed reasons, and Tucker can't resist offering her a ride.
Tucker has several skirmishes with the thugs who are pursuing Corinne. The descriptions of these confrontations are really fun. Since the author is a martial arts expert himself, Tucker’s fighting techniques feel entirely authentic.
Equally fun are Tucker's impressions of the ambiance in a Chinese kitchen, his translations of the raucous repartee among the staff, and his obsessive accounts of how properly to prepare various Chinese dishes.
The romance in the plot is much slower moving than the action, but that's rather touching, and sometimes humorous. Tucker is a great believer in getting the timing right.
I was a bit worried by the silly title of this book. But it turned out to be justified, since the plot does encompass plenty of Chinese cooking, and several diamond thieves. Once I got into the flow of the story, it all felt perfectly rational.
This is one of those books that’s a sheer pleasure to read – exciting, upbeat and funny. I loved the very original subject matter.
Tucker is a quiet, laid back sort who gives a "just the facts" version of his story, liberally peppered with sarcasm and little introspection. Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is a fun, fast paced read that will be enjoyed by cozy and hard boiled mystery readers alike and may also be good for the emerging new adult genre.
For reasons never made entirely clear, Tucker has been kicked out of Beddingfield College in Lancaster, NH, and is now on his way to St. Louis, MO, to become a chef in a Chinese restaurant (his boyhood dream) via his (currently empty) parents' home in Lancaster, MA, when he meets the mysterious Corinne Chang at a rest stop where she has been dropped by her last ride. Intrigued (and more than a little infatuated) Tucker offers her a ride to Buffalo, NY. Thus begins one of the wackiest adventures I have read in a long, long time.
Both Tucker and Corinne are incorrigible smartasses whose dialog positively sparkles, and almost without realizing it they start to grow fond of each other. But Corinne is keeping secrets that are liable to get them both killed. Fortunately, Tucker is a martial arts master willing to throw the first punch, and also fortunately, he befriends the FBI agents investigating just what on Earth is going on with Corinne so he has some backup. Despite the wacky humor this is a surprisingly realistic tale; Tucker succeeds more through luck and surprise than through fighting prowess. (No "wire work" will be required when the fight scenes in this novel are filmed.)
Dave Lowry has written a marvel here that is perfect for anyone who loves cooking, Chinese culture, bad jokes, young love, heroic but aging Toyotas, and obscure historical references, like to the Shakers and the mail hook once used by railroads to pick up bags of outbound mail without the train having to stop, familiar to most of us moderns only through old cartoons.
Note: About the only nit I could pick is that it would have been nice to have a complete list of Tucker's hilarious chapter heading rules that he lives by printed in an appendix at the end. Here are some of the more memorable ones:
Rule #3: Incredibly beautiful, exotic Asian babes are almost never psycho ax murderers.
Rule #4: When you shouldn't hesitate, don't.
Rule #8: Hitting people is often bad, but if it's necessary, it's necessary to hit first--always.
Rule #19: Never pick up strangers at a highway rest stop unless they speak Mandarin.
Rule #22: No matter how bored you are in a situation, it could always be more boring sitting in the dress department of a clothing store.
Rule #35: Cultural stereotypes are invariably narrow-minded and unreliable, and don't ever be surprised when they turn out to be true.
Rule #41: While there might not be any good reasons to go to Buffalo, there could conceivably be a reason to go back.
Rule #50: There are a lot of amazingly wonderful things in life, but if they involve lifelong celibacy, that's almost always a deal-breaker.
Rule #51: If you can't be tough or smart, at least try to be interesting.
Rule #61: Trying times call for expensive tea.
Rule #67: Fried clams always make things better.
Rule #68: Once the first body shows up, it all becomes a little more complicated.
Rule #74: No matter how bad your day, it can always get worse if someone points a gun at you.
Rule #76: A visit to the offices of any authority figure that is so short you don't have to sit down is usually a good one.
Rule #94: When the rules don't cover it, improvise.
I'm so glad I did. It's a very entertaining story about a 21 year old, white, manly American man named Tucker, from a well-to-do family, who quits during the last semester of college and goes to find work at a Chinese restaurant. As he's driving to his friend's apartment, he ends up picking up Corinne, a Chinese girl who is clearly on the run.
As the story unfolds (no spoilers here), I realized one of the reasons I liked it. It's akin to Firefly/Serenity without the sci-fi component. Tucker could be a modern-day Mal Reynolds - tries to do the right thing, has a quick wit, and though he seems curmudgeonly, he's got a good heart.
Part martial arts - the fights are well described - part cooking with the scents and the smells and the very traditional, non-American dishes - I worked at at a Chinese restaurant when I was in grad school and his descriptions are right on the money - part romance; part adventure; part educational (I learned several Cantonese and Mandarin pejoratives!) - it's complete fun.
Highly recommend. It will be one of the most unusual books you read this year.
Our hero, Tucker, may be a college drop-out (reason unknown, but it was shortly before graduating), but he's knows xing-i, which helps in fending off bad guys; and he's a fantastic Chinese cook who speaks Mandarin--surprising a lot of people--and knows the difference between Mandarin and Cantonese cooking and culture, among other things, and he can cope with hot woks and life in the kitchen, plus thugs and the FBI. The characters--and their relationships--are intriguing, and the dialogue is great. I also enjoyed learning about Chinese restaurants and authentic Chinese cooking--and tongs. Highly recommended.