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Lucky: A Detective Jack Yu Investigation


Lucky: A Detective Jack Yu Investigation

I was unaware of how fond I have become of Henry Chang’s Jack Yu series until I found myself setting all else aside for the newly published LUCKY, the fifth installment. Jack Yu is a troubled but reliable NYPD homicide detective whose assigned territory is New York’s Chinatown. The consummate loner, Jack is unable to truly trust anyone above him or beneath him in the official police chain of command, while he is regarded with suspicion at best and hostility at worst with most (though not all) of New York’s Asian community.

Chang makes demands of the reader as well. Anyone not well versed in Chinese cuisine (as opposed to what one might be familiar with at their neighborhood takeout joint) or the murky tentacles of the Chinese underworld will find navigating through any of these books a bit of a stiff-legged march. The exercise is ultimately worth it, however. An excursion through Asian neighborhoods in most large cities in North America is something that most outsiders undertake as a fish-out-of-water experience, but (usually) without apprehension. Chang opens the doors to the storefronts --- and the activities within some of them --- that are worth a passing glance to most, if they are noticed at all.

"Chang’s staccato prose keeps things moving, as does Jack’s personality, which is relentless when applied to whatever he is doing at the moment."

Such is particularly true of LUCKY, which may be the best of the series to date. Lucky Louie and Jack Yu ran the streets and tenement roofs of Chinatown as youths, but went in different directions after they attained adulthood. Jack took the lonely path as a policeman, while Lucky became a player in the vice and street rackets that constitute Chinatown’s hidden economy. This book brings the two childhood friends back together under very tough circumstances. The story opens with Jack observing the Chinese memorial period by visiting the gravesite of his father, who did not approve of his choice of vocation. The elder Yu’s voice is heard in Jack’s memory throughout LUCKY, as vignettes demonstrate the unfortunate truths contained in his late father’s warnings.

Jack is also required to undergo a department psychological evaluation due to his involvement in a shooting (which occurred in DEATH MONEY, the fourth in the series), and he finds himself attracted to May McCann, the NYPD therapist who is assigned to his case, even as his relationship with Chinatown legal assistance attorney Alexandra Lee-Chow hangs in the balance of her divorce proceedings.

Meanwhile, Lucky, who had been in a near-death coma after an assassination attempt, regains consciousness to find himself surrounded by enemies. He calls upon Jack to spirit him away to a safe house. Once there, Lucky begins to quickly recuperate from his almost-fatal experience and pull a highly select and hopefully trustworthy gang together to restore his crumbling criminal empire, while at the same time gaining some measure of revenge against those seeking to remove him from the playing table for good. Jack is somewhat caught in the middle of this. He is in an untenable position, given that his superiors are well aware of his relationship with Lucky. He must somehow seek to maintain order and enforce the law while attempting to keep his lifelong friend safe from harm. Lucky remains reckless to the end, even as his actions radiate outward beyond the novel’s conclusion.

This series builds progressively, and while LUCKY is enjoyable on its own, you may want to read DEATH MONEY first before pursuing this one. Both books are fairly quick reads, and efforts expended in reading them will be more than rewarded. Chang’s staccato prose keeps things moving, as does Jack’s personality, which is relentless when applied to whatever he is doing at the moment. The conclusion also leaves enough dangling threads to sustain reader interest and anticipation for the next volume, which hopefully will come sooner rather than later.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 24, 2017

Lucky: A Detective Jack Yu Investigation
by Henry Chang

  • Publication Date: March 27, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Hard-boiled Mystery, Mystery
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Crime
  • ISBN-10: 1616958928
  • ISBN-13: 9781616958923