Saturday, October 02, 2010

S. J. Rozan, ON THE LINE: Bill and Lydia -- Apart!

Fast-paced, tightly plotted, and -- if you picture the scenes as they'd unfold in, say, a film -- riotously funny at times, ON THE LINE is S. J. Rozan's 2010 release in the series featuring Bill Smith and Lydia Chin, partners in investigation, specializing in Chinatown crime. And rather than a classic detective story, this one's a suspense tale, a thriller of New York City not-quite-cop against ex-con.

The action starts on the first page, as Smith's cell phone gives the special ring he's programmed for Lydia. When he asks "What's up?" the reply from Lydia, in a tone that instantly puts him on alert, is, "Nothing good." Sure enough -- Lydia's being held captive, and from here on, Bill is at the mercy of a sadistic, game-rigging criminal recently out of prison, determined to get back at Smith through what he assumes is the girlfriend in his life.

Series readers already know that Bill and Lydia haven't managed to develop a romance successfully, although they are "I'd die for you" friends. In a book filled with car chases, explosives, hostages, and time pressure, they sure won't get a chance to explore their inner selves this time, either! And Rozan sets up Bill Smith to work this one without his partner, for the most part -- but with two clever "kids" able to muster the resources of the Internet and social media on behalf of Lydia and Bill, even when that requires working in tandem with some of Chinatown's habitual criminals. It is, after all, a fitting game response to the way the electronic-voiced hostage-taker is trying to use Chinatown against Bill.

Maybe you need experience living with a bright and "cool" teen to buy the conversations Bill has with Linus (think Pauling, not Peanuts) and Trella -- but the exclamations of "Dude!" from Linus struck me as close enough to reality, and Trella is clearly the right "Dudess" for this loyal geek. I had a great time riding with the action and cheering for Bill and his team.

Even as I type this, I'm seeing the chase scenes all over again. This book is fun! Rozan knows how to spin a crazy situation into something that demands the teamwork that only real friendship can produce. Love it!

For a bright interview with Rozan about her choices in this one, take a look at her web site.  Nice to see the major reviews, too.

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