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The Foreigner    by Francine Lin order for
by Francine Lin
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2008 (2008)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

For forty years, soft-spoken financial analyst Emmerson Chang has lived under his mother's thumb. She's blatantly manipulated him since his childhood, and as an adult, Emmerson has no family except for her. His brother, Little P, abandoned them a decade earlier. A postcard at Christmas is all they know of him, yet his mother never stopped believing her favorite son would one day return home.

It's not until Emmerson's mother dies abruptly from advanced-stage cancer she carefully hid that Emmerson begins to understand the depth of her love for Little P. Despite the fact that the younger Chang brother has been living in Taipei for ten years, Mrs. Chang left her motel, The Remada Inn, to him instead of Emmerson. Now, Emmerson must take his mother's ashes to Taipei where he can set her to rest, and at the same time find his brother and fulfill her final wish. That is, assuming Emmerson can survive the Taiwanese criminal underworld first ...

From the opening page, this debut novel has an unmistakable noir feel. What sets it apart from other dark mysteries is not only its gritty setting, but also the main character's strikingly charming voice. Although it's difficult to relate to Emmerson at first due to his initial introduction, which shows his mother treating him as though he's still in diapers, it soon becomes clear that what Lin intended all along was to contrast Emmerson's mild manner to Little P's savage nature.

The story truly takes off the moment Emmerson arrives in Taipei. There, he reunites with his brother, who is hardly recognizable and is now involved in some shady dealings as far removed from Emmerson's normal life as possible. With a deft touch and a sleek writing style, Lin explores a brother's love. Even when faced with the frightening truth that his brother is a truly dangerous man involved with some scary characters, Emmerson can't let go. Little P is all he has left, and he's determined to save his family, at any cost. But who will save him?

A dark, compelling debut, The Foreigner offers a captivating look at a man's need to belong. Haunting and unconventional, The Foreigner is sure to delight fans of literary mysteries.

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