Published by Mariner Books on July 8th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Mystery/Thriller
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 gwai lo—a 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 arts master 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.
Chinese Cooking for Diamond Thieves is a book I had never heard of and would never have picked up if not for a personal recommendation from one of my friends. The way she talked about this book intrigued me, it sounded like something so completely different to all my usual reads that I found myself drawn to it. Also, that title sure didn’t hurt either.
The novel takes a while to get into, the first couple pages are disconcerting because of the peculiar writing style. The narration of the book is almost stream-of consciousness, as Tucker tells us about all the things spinning around in his head. And let me tell you, Tucker’s head is a fun place to be. He’s very witty and sarcastic, often weirdly relatable and reading all that internal monologue had me cracking up a couple of times. Some of the things that happen are so bizarre you just want to roll your eyes but the way Tucker tells the story somehow makes it work.
I loved the banter going on between him and other characters. They’re all clever and likable and make the story, despite its somewhat meandering and a bit pointless nature, feel real and engaging. The book is fast-paced and reads quickly, though not it’s not necessarily exciting per se. Even if I found myself bored with the story at times, I still wanted to know the next chapter heading. Tucker has these life rules that he shares throughout the novel and some of them are straight up hilarious.
Dave Lowry is a restaurant critic for St. Louis Magazine and writes for a number of other magazines, mainly on the subject of Japan and Japanese martial arts. This is definitely something you could tell throughout the novel. Tucker practices martial arts, speaks fluent Mandarin and cooks Chinese food better than most natives. The descriptions were on point, sometimes almost like reading a nonfiction book (which Lowry also writes), but they never felt to dry. In fact, they made me want to eat all the Chinese food. I got so hungry reading this!
This isn’t a novel for everyone; I would say you need at least a slight interest in cooking and Chinese culture to enjoy this. But if you do, maybe give it a try if you want to read something different! Overall, it’s an enjoyable and quite hilarious read.