THE CASE OF THE CHINESE BOXES was the second novel to feature Australian P.I. Claudia Valentine who works out of the city of Sydney. She lives above a bar and has a failed marriage with a couple of kids that live with their father. It was published by Allen & Unwin in 1990. The third book in the series, THE LAST TANGO OF DELORES DELGADO, won the PWA Shamus for best paperback original.
The bank job, dubbed The Great Chinese Takeaway by the press, happened over the new year’s weekend amidst a long celebration, you know fireworks and such, perfect cover for the heist. They spent forty-eight hours looting safe deposit boxes, unable to get at the cash, setting off alarms when they tried to blast the door. All sorts of rumors were about about the contents, everything from jewelry to cash, gold, securities, and heroin. Various estimates of the haul ranged from ten million to a hundred million. Not a lot of people disclosed the contents of their boxes and the thieves had never been caught.
Enter Claudia Valentine.
The Chen family hires her to recover a family heirloom, an antique key made of gold with six intricate teeth and an ornate fire-breathing dragon on the crown. She was to find it and offer a considerable sum for the return. No questions asked. When asked why they thought she could succeed, the answer was, “You are a woman. You are invisible.” She was given a thousand dollar check as a retainer.
Recover a family heirloom. It seemed simple enough, even if finding the thieves might not be that easy. The police weren’t having any luck. As usual with these types of stories, things get complicated and dangerous. Throw in the Chinese Triads, ancient treasure, a woman looking through cheap backstreets and oriental temples, and you get a fine tale here.
This is my first Claudia Valentine novel(I’m tracking down the other three), but I have been reading the Wyatt novels(an Australian Parker) by Garry Disher and these stories give me a glimpse of a society much different than that of which I’m familiar, even though they are English speaking people. It’s the same with England. We all speak the same language, well mostly, but we each have our own customs, slang, foods, an outlook on life. I like catching these glimpses.