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Changes is the first book in the Randall Lee Mysteries by Charles Colyott.
I have to admit, the reason why I picked up this book in the first place was because the main character, Randall Lee is a martial arts expert. It kinda brought back memories of my teen years when I was interested for a while in martial arts (and I had for a few years my knuckles to prove it too!).
While my interest in actually practicing was rather fleeting, I still find it fascinating to read a book about a main character who is devoted to the art. I will never pass such an opportunity if I can help it.
So when I started reading the book, I was absolutely sure it would be a cozy mystery with a karate guy who solves murders. When I finished the book, I realized that only half of this is true. The book was really a fun mystery with a lot of chuckling moments thrown in. Loved that! And when I finished reading book #2 and especially book #3 I realized just how far away this series is from anything cozy.
In fact The Randall Lee Mysteries turns out to be a hardcore thriller which gets darker and darker with every consecutive book. Hurray! because that’s right up my alley! I enjoy cozies, but dark thrillers with some wit are really my cup of strong coffee.
The story starts with the FBI asking Randall to be a translator in the case of a murdered woman. Soon he realizes that the killer is well practiced in the dark arts of Tai Chi, which is exactly the opposite of what he does and practices, which also makes him enraged and determined to find this killer just because.
Aterall the killer and Randall are the two opposite sides of the same coin. So who else is better to find the killer before he strikes again, but him.
The story is fast paced, suspenseful and often an edge of your seat type of reading. I really didn’t find a boring moment in the book. The characters are well depicted, and I especially loved learning more about Randall Lee.
He is a 40ish white male born in Hong Kong. For all intents and purposes he is a white American Chinese guy.
And that’s exactly his problem, because the local Chinese didn’t exactly embrace him with open arms, what with his skin color and all that, and now, being in the US in St. Louis currently, he kinds of feels out of place here as well, especially with the folks in Chinatown not fully trusting him as a Chinese either.
At the moment Randall has a herbs store and works as an acupuncturist. He has a deep knowledge of the darker aspects of Tai Chi, some of which he talks in depth in this book. However he uses Tai Chi for the greater good and for healing, something that he does extremely well.
He is a flawed person – an anti hero really, who has his demons from the past that constantly come back to haunt him. He is often angry and even more often clueless of what is going on around him.
Lee is also often beaten, bruised and badly hurt. That doesn’t stop him from pushing forward. He gets in trouble very often, simply because he wants to help people. And solve murders. But all that makes him nothing more than human, and I love him for it.
The first book in the series has also a romance aspect to it. Randall Lee is in love with Tracy, a young woman almost half half his age. This makes for a very interesting dynamic in their relationship, one which surprisingly works extremely well.
I love Tracy’s hairless cat btw and had more than a giggle throughout when I read about Lee and the cat being together. Just too funny really.
Now I know that initially I mentioned that the series is a dark thriller. However the first book is a witty crime mystery with a lot of fun chuckling moments in it (the darker parts come in the following books), and with a lot of Tai-Chi related inner monologues by Randall.
However if you think that you’ll be bored by all that karate techno-mumble, don’t worry, because the author has a way of making it not only fun to read, but highly entertaining. I know of at least one person who in fact got interested in learning more about Tai Chi after reading this book.
Overall I loved Changes, and while I can’t say ‘I’m looking forward to the next book’, because I’ve already read the next, and the next…, I’m looking forward to the author finishing book #4 – which he currently is working on, so I won’t have a big break between my reads. At least I have the next novella, book #3.5, to keep me entertained in the meantime.
I highly recommend not only this book, but the entire series!.