Authors Jennifer J. Chow and J.B. Stevens discuss the opening for Chow’s mystery novel “Death By Bubble Tea”.
The First Line is a recurring column by J.B. Stevens. Mystery Tribune readers (you) get an inside look at what goes through the author’s mind as they craft their opening.
For the column, an author presents the initial sentence of their story. Then J.B. writes his impression of the passage. Next, the author discusses what their intent was with the line. To keep it interesting, J.B. writes his section before looking at the author’s description. Finally, you decide: Did the author achieve their goal?
For this edition of THE FIRST LINE, we are looking at DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA by Jennifer J. Chow. This novel was published in July 2022 by Berkley.
The opening line:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single woman in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a book.”
This author put out a super brave opening line—I love the confidence. Chow is really going for it. Riffing off one of the most famous novel beginnings of all time is bold and I respect the choice immensely. The tweak of woman/man and book/wife is a fun play on what is important to our characters and (I imagine) it reflects their motivations and their thought process.
…A single, bookish, Austen fan setting out upon an epic story…
I am getting the impression that this is a playful book with a witty protagonist who has an eye for detail. I like it.
Explanation from the author:
This line sets up who my protagonist is and how she thinks. Yale Yee is single and bookish. She’s clearly an Austen fan, and in many ways, is mired in the past. It’s also the start of an epic story which she is at the heart of—though it won’t be a tale of romance but of (cozy) murder.
Our author did a great job with this one. A single, bookish, Austen fan setting out upon an epic story—I can see all of it. Great work.
When Yale Yee discovers her cousin Celine is visiting from Hong Kong, she is obliged to play tour guide to a relative she hasn’t seen in twenty years. Not only that, but her father thinks it’s a wonderful idea for them to bond by running a food stall together at the Eastwood Village Night Market. Yale hasn’t cooked in years, and she hardly considers Celine’s career as a social media influencer as adequate experience, but because she’s just lost her job at her local bookstore, she feels she has no choice.
Yale and Celine serve small dishes and refreshing drinks, and while business is slow, it eventually picks up thanks to Celine’s surprisingly useful marketing ideas. They’re quite shocked that their bubble tea, in particular, is a hit—literally—when one of their customers turns up dead. Yale and Celine are prime suspects due to the gold flakes that Celine added to the sweet drink as a garnish. Though the two cousins are polar opposites in every way, they must work together to find out what really happened to the victim or the only thing they’ll be serving is time.