The Golden Gate transports readers back to 1940s San Francisco with a well-plotted and clever whodunit that pits a tough-guy murder detective against one of the city's wealthiest families. It's a story that sheds light on the many ways that race and class play into the history of the West Coast town and the United States judicial system writ large.
Detective Al Sullivan is enjoying a drink with a pretty girl at the upscale Claremont Hotel when he's told there's been a murder upstairs in one of the guest rooms. The victim proves to be none other than a much-maligned presidential candidate with a laundry list of enemies in town. One of the suspects turns out to be the girl Sullivan had been out on the town with that same evening, also a member of the Bainbridge family, part of San Francisco's elite. As clues lead Sullivan to believe that the murder of the politician is connected to the unexplained death of one of the young Bainbridge daughters a decade earlier, he finds himself caught up in a murky, tangled investigation full of twists and turns.
Amy Chua (Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) brings a keen eye for historical detail to her debut novel, filling The Golden Gate with trivia about San Francisco's growth as a port and then a bustling well-to-do city, as rife with elements of racism and classism as elsewhere in the U.S. Within this historical context, Chua skillfully draws in elements of classic noir fiction, making The Golden Gate a stunning first novel. --Kerry McHugh, freelance reviewer