Return to Dust by Andrew Lanh

Return to Dust by Andrew Lanh
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (300 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

When Marta Kowalski is discovered beneath the Farmington River Bridge, the police write off her death as an unfortunate suicide. Marta had become depressed since the death of an old friend. Marta was a simple woman who cleaned houses, mostly for elderly professors, and faithfully attended Mass. Sometimes she went gambling in Atlantic City or at the Indian casinos. She had no enemies, let alone friends. Murder? There’s no evidence of a crime. Yet her niece Karen is convinced of foul play. She hires Amerasian Rick Van Lam, the only investigator she knows in this bedroom community. He had never really cared for Marta. Yes, she’d dusted his apartment a couple of times, but she was a little too nosy. And she’d fought with a local gardener, a full-blooded Vietnamese man. Jimmy, his mentor and partner at nearby Hartford, Connecticut’s Gaddy Associates, aces at insurance fraud, frowns on Rick taking another murder case. But aided by his sidekick Hank Nguyen and Hank’s wise Buddhist grandmother, Rick begins asking questions and finds himself mired in affluent Farmington’s parochial pettiness and scandal. Digging deeper, he unearths rivalries, jealousies, and viciousness to shame a Miss Marple village―and realizes to his amazement that Marta was no mere unassuming housekeeper. Any number of townsfolk had reason to shove her off that bridge―one of them mind-blowing.

When Marta is found dead below bridge, everyone believes it was suicide. Her daughter doesn’t, however, and she hires Rick Van Lam to prove it.

Mr. Lanh’s detective is half Vietnamese and half American soldier. That makes asking questions is a bit harder. Neither the whites nor the Vietnamese trust him. The white’s don’t trust his dark skin; the Vietnamese don’t trust his blue eyes. He perseveres and has the skills to wait long enough to get answers or to get thrown out.

Marta was his housekeeper. She worked for many others. Most didn’t like her much. Maybe someone hated her. It’s when he finds out she had another side than the one he saw that he learns she had some secrets. She liked to drink, she liked to gamble, and she dressed for the part. Was that what got her killed?

This author has a way of drawing you in while showing you the secrets of families and friends. Most everyone in the story has a secret somewhere. He shows you that the death of a man she thought she was in love with was a big issue in her life. She kept trying to find him even after he moved. She was almost obsessed. What she finds by mistake gets her killed but that’s a mystery until the end.

The story is paced well, the clues he bleeds into the story keep you reading, and almost every character within is touched some way by this murder and the people involved. It was an interesting read.

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