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A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch. St. Martin Press, 2007. 309 pp.

This book is essentially a mystery, but actually much more. It takes place in England during Victorian times and features primarily, Lenox, a wealthy gentleman, but additionally his nearby neighbor and close friend Lady Jane, his brother George and his butler Graham. The brothers and Lady Jane had been friends as children and Lenox and Graham are also great friends, although they carefully try to maintain the line between butler and employee.

The mystery begins when Lady Jane asks Lenox to find out what happened to cause the death of her former maid Pru, who had been working at another estate. Lenox is very wealthy, has a houseful of servants and is in a number of gentleman’s clubs where he can go when he wishes to dine out or just to socialize when the mood strikes. The book shows the great disparity between the wealthy and the working classes during those times. He is a kind and generous person, though.

Investigating Pru’s death leads him to suspect it was murder, and that was the beginning of a good mystery and wonderfully written novel. I rank it in my mind as one of the better novels I have read.  –C.M.

Fifth Chinese Daughter by Jade Snow Wong. University Washington Press 1950. 246 pp.

This is the story of a Chinese family living San Francisco. The parents were born in China, but the main character, Jade Snow Wong, who is narrating the story, and her sisters and brothers were born in America. Jade is the next to youngest child and is close to her younger sister Jade Precious Stone. Some of their older siblings are married and live away.

It is a fascinating story. The parents run a small factory in their home, and they are extremely strict with their children. When Jade begins going to school she becomes aware the extreme differences between the strict Chinese way of life and how American children are raised.

One cannot help but admire how Jade has made her way in America. She manages to go to college and then has an interesting job after graduation. At the end of the book she has an occupation that everybody admires.

I don’t think I have ever read a book that tells a story that so vividly reveals the experience of a person with a foreign background becoming a true American. This is well worth reading. –P.M. 

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