This Is a Bust, the second novel by award-winning author Ed Lin, turns the conventions of hard-boiled pulp stories on their head by exploring the unexotic and very real complexities of New York City's Chinatown, circa 1976, through the eyes of a Chinese-American cop. A Vietnam vet and an alcoholic, Robert Chow's troubles are compounded by the fact that he's basically community-relations window-dressing for the NYPD: he's the only Chinese American on the Chinatown beat, and the only police officer who can speak Cantonese, but he's never assigned anything more challenging than appearances at store openings or community events. Chow is willing to stuff down his feelings and hang tight for a promotion to the detective track, despite the community unrest that begins to roil around him. But when his superiors remain indifferent to an old Chinese woman's death, he is forced to take matters into his own hands. This Is a Bust is at once a murder mystery, a noir homage and a devastating, uniquely nuanced portrait of a neighborhood in flux, stuck between old rivalries and youthful idealism.
This is the eBook edition of This Is a Bust, originally published in print form in November 2007.
Lin (Waylaid) examines the life of a 1976 Chinatown beat cop in his understated second novel. Young officer Robert Chow is unabashedly used by the NYPD to create the illusion of diversity in the force, despite anti-Asian bias from white cops who don't know or don't care that Chow served with U.S. forces in Vietnam. Chow can't get his superiors' attention when he suspects that a woman may have been murdered by her husband, and he soon finds himself caught between the corrupt rulers of the local Chinese-American community and the average men and women who toil for meager wages to survive. Chow is a little too enigmatic to engage most readers, and the murder plot remains in the background throughout much of the story; nonetheless, Lin succeeds at recreating his chosen time and place, even if authors like Reggie Nadelson and S.J. Rozan have better handled issues of assimilation and real-life policing.