1944. Berkeley, California. Detective Al Sullivan finds himself the lead detective on a murder case involving former presidential candidate Walter Wilkinson. With the abundance of enemies that Wilkinson has made in his life, the list of suspects is long. But strangely enough, the investigation seems to find its way back to the tragic death ten years prior of seven year old Iris Stafford, a member of the wealthy San Francisco Bainbridge family, at the same hotel. Despite the machinations of the Bainbridge family, the political aspirations of the district attorney, and the interest of Chinese First Lady Madame Chiang Kai-Shek, Sullivan is determined to find the truth and bring a killer into the light.
Holy cow. I don’t think I truly understood what I was getting into when I saw that this was a historical thriller, but I was absolutely blown away. It’s clear that Chua really took care and took the time to do the research about the time period. The historical elements are incorporated so seamlessly and in such an interesting way that it made me want to go out and do some research on my own.
The downside to the historically accurate elements presented in the book is that the reader also has to read through the thoughts and feelings of the time. Overt racism and prejudice is present throughout, especially when it comes to the Japanese. Even though it felt icky, I understood the need to include it in this book and it’s also a good reminder of how far we’ve come since then (even though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it).
All the twists and turns kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. There was never a moment where I was confident what would happen next. At this point, I’m still not sure if the ending is actually the truth of what happened and I love that!
One of the things that I really loved was that Sullivan is mixed race, but he can pass as white. He has to reconcile his actual identity with the one that he presents to the world. In addition to learning to accept his identity, he also has to learn to accept the kind of person he is.
With a full cast of compelling and nuanced characters, Chua brings history to life while still weaving an intricate story that leaves readers guessing through to the end. A bestseller in the non-fiction space already, Chua has penned a dazzling debut fiction novel that leaves me wanting more.
I also had the pleasure of listening to an advanced copy of the audiobook which is narrated by Robb Moreira, Tim Campbell, and Suzanne Toren. The narrators really brought this story to life, understanding the nuances of each character and how they interact with one another.
THE GOLDEN GATE by Amy Chua hits shelves on September 19, 2023 and you can preorder a copy here.
Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book and audiobook from the publisher for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."