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Caught Dead

ISBN - 978-1-4642-0330-5

Hartford, Connecticut’s small Vietnamese community is stunned. Mary Le Vu, wife of a poor grocery-store owner, is gunned down in a drive-by. Her twin sister insists dutiful Mary “wouldn’t be caught dead” in that drug-infested zone. The police rule it an unlucky accident. Skeptics hire private eye Rick Van Lam to get to the truth. Amerasian Rick –his father an unknown US soldier –is one of the bui doi, children of the dust, so often rejected by Vietnamese culture. But his young sidekick, Hank Nguyen, a pureblood Vietnamese, can help Rick navigate the closed world of Little Saigon. Surrounded by close friends –a former-Rockette landlady, his crusty mentor, and his ex-wife Liz –Rick immerses himself in a world that rejects him, but now needs his help. Especially when a second murder strikes in Little Saigon. Rick and Hank delve into the families of the Le sisters, one poor, one very rich, and uncover a world of explosive ethnic tension and sinister criminal activity ranging from Hartford’s exclusive white suburbs to the impoverished inner city. To solve the murders –and bring closure to Mary’s grieving circle –Rick looks to long-buried memories of his Buddhist childhood for the wisdom that will lead him to a murderer. Caught Dead starts a smart, unusual series.


Rick Van Lam

Mystery Series



Return to Dust

ISBN - 978-1464204289

Why would anyone want to murder Marta Kowalski?


When her body is discovered in a riverbed beneath the Farmington River Bridge, the police write her death off as an unfortunate suicide. After all, she’d become depressed since the death of an old friend. But murder? Marta was a simple woman who cleaned houses and apartments and faithfully attended Mass on Sundays. Sometimes she went gambling in Atlantic City or at the Indian casinos. Murder? She had no enemies.


Yet her niece Karen is convinced there was foul play, though she possesses no concrete proof. None whatsoever. Nevertheless, she hires Amerasian P.I. Rick Van Lam to look into the matter. He knew Marta, though vaguely, and never really cared for her. Yes, she’d dusted the rooms of his apartment a couple times, but she was always a little too nosy. A local busybody, he’d concluded. Against the wishes of his mentor and partner Jimmy, but aided by his Vietnamese sidekick Hank Nguyen and Hank’s wise Buddhist grandmother, Rick begins asking questions.


Immediately he finds himself mired in the parochial pettiness and scandal of small-town Farmington, Connecticut. Investigating, he unearths rivalries, jealousies, and viciousness—and realizes to his amazement that Marta's life was not merely that of an unassuming housekeeper. Her fiery passions gave any number of townsfolk reason to shove her off that final bridge.




No Good To Cry

ISBN - 978-1-4642-0639-9

On a sunny afternoon in Hartford, Connecticut, PI Rick Van Lam’s Vietnam-vet mentor and partner, Jimmy, and Jimmy’s old army pal, Ralph, are attacked as they walk down a city sidewalk. Ralph is killed, and Jimmy, backing up, is struck by a car. While the battered Jimmy is under the care of Rick’s landlord and friend, Gracie, where an improbable romance seems to be blooming, Rick finds himself in a quandary―he’s asked to clear the name of the two attackers named by the police. One is a boy named Simon Tran, known as Saigon, the other, Simon’s buddy, Frankie Croix.

Rick himself is a bui doi or child of dust, meaning the child of a Vietnamese mother and an American GI father. Leading a life of disdain and torment in a Ho Chi Minh City orphanage as a child, a battered Rick turned on a newly arrived child of dust, a more despised case: a boy who was the son of a Vietnamese mother and a black GI. He’s still ashamed of how savagely pleased he was to have another boy become the new target for mistreatment, someone the Vietnamese community viewed as even lower than him.

Years later, in Hartford, Rick has to grapple with that troubling childhood memory because Simon is the son of the same bui doi, Mike Tran. Mike is a hard-working, decent man. Despite the difficulties of being Amerasian, he embodies the American Dream: a house, a loving wife, and exemplary children―students at prestigious private schools and colleges. Except for Simon, who seems hell-bent on a life of crime.

Working with Hank Nguyen, a young colleague now a state-cop-intraining, Rick tracks Simon to a Vietnamese gang in Little Saigon. How can he not strive to save Simon and Frankie, boys who refuse to be saved? And who may be facing not just murder charges but becoming victims in a vicious gangland war?




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