This book contains the following interconnected short stories: Wild Garlic, On a Phantom Tide, The Shade of Lo Man Gong, Pagan Night, Desert Night Ride, Caravan of Death, Tong Yun Guy, Shaunessy Fong, Tinsel Chink, In the Temple of Forgotten Spirits. They capture the adventures of Jack Hong as he hitchhikes across the USA chasing after the elusive keilin (Chinese unicorn). The collection as a whole works pretty well. I think a few edits would have tightened the story up a bit so that it read smoothly as a novel. Each tale reads like a really long chapter for the most part but sometimes one story will reference actions or people we just left in the previous story. We haven’t had time to forget, so it comes off a little repetitive here and there.
And that is my only criticism of the book.
Jack Hong is an interesting character on an engaging journey. He gets a little jail time for losing a fight and that’s when Lo Man Gong appears, practically pushing him out a window into a jail break. From there, Jack follows the misty form of the keilin, not knowing what the spirit wants with him. But he has plenty of opportunities to help others along the way.
Shaunessy Fong brought in the mystery solving aspect to the novel, as well as ghosts. Jack had his first nasty shock being tossed into jail, then another shock with the escape artist spirit Gong, yet one more with keilin, and finally, now, here are some ghosts. I was waiting for Jack to faint! But he rallied and decided that perhaps he was witnessing this horrible moment of the past via the ghosts reenactment because he was meant to help them.
Desert Night Ride is set in the desert Southwest, starting in Albuquerque and ending near Salt Lake City. Throughout this entire novel, Jack is sometimes searching for his ancestral past, sometimes ignoring it, and sometimes making peace with it. This tale did a great job of showcasing this particular aspect to the greater story. Plus, it’s the desert which is a setting I always enjoy in stories.
Wild Garlic struck a different captured my mind for other reasons. Set in the Ozarks, the population is primarily White with this one Chinese wife. On his way through, Jack is first invited to have dinner with them and then later to help them calm an angry spirit. It’s only late in the story that there’s something magical about some of the characters in this tale. While the Ozarks have kept them a bit isolated from their native culture, it’s also that isolation that’s allowed them to fly under the radar.
Caravan of Death has a little time travel element to it. Here, Jack learns a bit about the Chinese work gangs for one of the big railroad companies in the 1800s. Jack also helps a woman see how her ancestry isn’t lost in her own offspring as that ancestry helped to make this country travelable.
In the Temple of Forgotten Spirits wraps up the novel quite nicely. It brings everything home while also giving Jack a new purpose, a quest to set out upon. The author took the time to add plenty of notes about his experiences that relate to a specific tale or what his historical research turned up. I really enjoyed these as well as I enjoy learning little bits from my entertainment. All told, 4/5 stars.
The Narration: Anthony Lee did OK with this narration. He starts off a little rough, sometimes putting emphasis on one word over others in a sentence, making it sound awkward. But he smooths out about 1/3 of the way into the book. His attempt at hick accents sounded off but his pronunciation of various Asian words sounded great to my untutored ears. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were believable. 4/5 stars.
I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Anthony Lee. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.