Chinese-American cop Robert Chow explores the corrupt world of “snakeheads” or human smugglers while investigating a double homicide in New York’s Chinatown of the mid-1970s. Chow’s investigation centers around three community leaders representing China’s fractured politics. While hunting for the killer, he launches a personal vendetta against the snakeheads, spurred in part by his father’s trials as an illegal alien. In Chow, Lin has created a character with the unique perspective that comes from straddling two cultures. Among the book’s greatest strengths are its depiction of Chow’s relationships with his black male partner, his girlfriend and the various colorful characters populating Chinatown. A subplot involving a psychologically damaged fellow Vietnam veteran adds texture to the story and underscores the wounds Chow himself suffered during the war. In addition, Lin’s dour sense of humor leavens the otherwise dark material. The dialogue is crisp and funny, for the most part, though it can become too expository on the subjects of China’s history and politics. And although the topic of illegal aliens working in sweatshops is often discussed, it’s never depicted. Nonetheless, Chow is a likable protagonist, whose humor, passion and insights into Chinese and American culture make the book well worth reading. The story works up to a stunning climax and, for Chow, the unearthing of a disturbing secret.