From Boswell and Books:

According to my sister, the book to read is The Hour of the Rat, by Lisa Brackmann. Claudia, as you know, teaches Chinese at Holy Cross, is the former president of the Chinese Language Teacher’s Association, and has written a number of bestselling Chinese textbooks, as well as probably the bestselling and best reviewed Chinese grammar book out there. Do I sound biased? I tend to share some of my advance copies with her, as she is an enthusiastic reader who shares good feedback, and boy, did she love this book. It follows an army vet turned art dealer, Ellie McEnroe, who is the agent for an Ai Weiwei-style dissident artist. The police (one of whom is an old boyfriend) are on her trail for her connection to the dissident. And her other case, trying to help an army vet trace his brother, seems to be angering a lot of folks as well. The more she disgs, the more trouble she gets into, but McEnroe is dogged in her pursuit of justice. And why not? The alternative is hanging out with her mom.

I asked Claudia why she loved the book so much and she had two reasons. First of all, this book is very unusual in that its very fair to China and really delves into the complexities of modern life there. It’s neither an attack on nor a love affair with the culture. It’s neither wonderful nor terrible, just a really interesting place where almost anything can happen. And Ellie McEnroe is a really great protagonist–funny and smart and open, without being obnoxious or pretentious. Lisa Brackmann (pictured) has won at least one China specialist’s heart,and based on how many other folks my sister talks to in the field, more fans are likely to come.

From My Bookish Ways:

…Ellie is a little bit older, and a little bit wiser since the events that occurred right after Zhang Jianli’s disappearance, but it hasn’t dampened her traveling spirit. In fact, if you loved the travel aspect of Rock Paper Tiger, you’re gonna love Hour of the Rat. The author picked some of China’s most mystical, eerie, and colorful places in which to drop her intrepid war vet and has ramped up the danger considerably. At first Ellie thinks she’s on the trail of a wayward young man, but soon finds out that he’s been labeled an ecoterrorist by the Chinese government, which certainly puts a damper on things. Soon Ellie discovers a series of videos shot by Jason, and uses these as the touch points in her investigation. Even John, the cop that has been looking over Ellie’s shoulder for so long, plays a big part in this one, and I admit to having a bit of a crush on him. Seriously, John is one of the best parts of this book, and you’ll get a kick out of Ellie’s mom and her friend Andy. As serious as events sometimes get, and they do, Lisa Brackmann always manages to insert a bit of levity so as to not let things get too bogged down, and it creates for a really fun reading experience. Again, as in Rock Paper Tiger, the author combines one part China travelogue, two parts mystery, and a healthy dose of quirky charm in Hour of the Rat. This is a perfect summer read for those looking for a mystery that’s off the beaten path!

From Reviewing The Evidence:

…The story is narrated by Ellie, a woman who is tough but scarred by war, full of a mix of brash self-confidence and doubt, stubbornly committed to the mission she’s on, however hair-brained and dangerous, but prone to question herself every step of the way. She’s funny and principled, but sometimes exasperating and very young.

This novel, a follow-up to ROCK, PAPER, TIGER, is strongest in its depiction of modern China. It’s a shame it doesn’t come with a map, since Ellie’s search takes her from smoggy Beijing to the iconic foggy mountains of Yangshuo, to a grim city where the Western world’s electronic trash is disassembled for its component parts, a place where the poverty is grinding and the toxins leach into everyone’s lives. It’s a country of contradictions, where Ellie can get a ride from impoverished farmers on an ancient tractor and later find herself whisked away by a wealthy businessman to his own personal Xanadu on his private jet.

All in all, Lisa Brackmann gives readers an memorable trip through a country full of surprises.

From The Long Beach Gazette:

Lisa, who has traveled extensively in China, describes herself as an Asiaphile, and says it seemed natural to her to set her first book, and its just-published sequel, “Year of the Rat,” in China. Her protagonist, the very funny and highly original Ellie Cooper, is an Iraqi war vet who manages to get accidentally caught up in international conspiracy. With wit and skill, Lisa somehow manages to weave together a perfectly logical story with Uigar dissidents, a subversive online game, and the Chinese art world, without ever bogging down in explication. There aren’t many writers who could pull all that off, maintain suspense, and be funny, too.
——Wendy Hornsby