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Snakes Can't Run (Detective Robert Chow #2)

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  78 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
An epic of New York Chinatown noir in the vein of George Pelecanos and Richard Price, this is the riveting sequel to the highly acclaimed This Is a Bust

It's a hot summer in New York's Chinatown in 1976 and Robert Chow, the Chinese-American detective son of an illegal immigrant, takes on a new breed of ruthless human smugglers— snakeheads—when two bodies of smuggled Chinese
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Minotaur Books (first published 2010)
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Jan 17, 2017 Jessica rated it really liked it
This is a solid sequel to "This is a Bust." The murders that Policeman Chow is investigating are related to a larger crime of illegal human trafficking in Chinatown. And of course as with almost any crime book, show or movie the cop takes it personally because of connection in his own family or life. But overall the plot is good because Lin's strength is the time period, setting and history and so you learn a lot about Chinatown in the 70s and political events shaping the community and he always ...more
May 02, 2010 Lucinda rated it really liked it
Snakes Can’t Run (Minotaur 2010) is the second Robert Chow novel, following the travails of a Chinatown beat cop in 1976 New York City. The first book, This Is a Bust (2007), had a thin detective/mystery thread and a lot of fascinating local color, post-Vietnam War angst, and resentment over his status as the 5th Precinct token, condemned to a hell of attending community events to show how progressive the NYPD is. Robert wants to be a detective, but with his beer-for-breakfast routine and attitu ...more
I feel much the same towards this book as I did towards the its predecessor, This is a Bust: meh. I'm grateful to have an opportunity to read about Asian-Americans solving crimes and dealing with war trauma and navigating intergenerational and intercultural conflict, BUT despite my delight in having a book about people (somewhat) like me (written by someone who shares my last name!) I couldn't really get into the groove of this series. I strongly suspect it's the dialogue - the characters speak ...more
Apr 17, 2011 Paulmbauer rated it really liked it
This book was a lot of fun. I don't usually read detective/police-type novels, but the author is a friend and got me in a headlock until I bought it. OK, kidding about the headlock. As someone fairly new to NYC who has spent a lot of time in Chinatown, it really taught me a lot about the rich history of that famous neighborhood. It was also a fun page-turning whodunnit. Ed really captures the feel of the City in the 1970's, even though he himself wasn't born until the late 1990's. OK, again, kid ...more
Aug 08, 2012 Monica rated it liked it
Chinatown in 1976 - Robert Chow is no longer the token - for window dressing - Chinese cop in Chinatown. He is three months sober and on the path to becoming a detective. He has a life, and a girlfriend who wants to be a journalist. He and his fellow Vietnam vet partner Vandyne are following up on a couple of murders and a mysterious snake head who is bringing in illegal immigrants from Fujian and placing them in low level jobs in local businesses.

The local scene is richly portrayed, the charac
Jan 16, 2012 Patty rated it really liked it
An excellent author and already, some critics prone to bigotry are attempting, without luck, to belittle Lin's substance and talent. I find the language excellently applied i this gritty novel and fitting each character like an iPod skin made exactly to shape. The story is riveting in its history and explanations of the truth of Chinese history in the USA. Well written and fresh, based on the underbelly of China Town and enlightening. This book outlines the difficulties that Chinese men have had ...more
Jul 05, 2010 Will rated it really liked it
I liked this better than the first in the series, but not as much as his debut work Waylaid (one of my favorites of the millenium). Something that stood out in this one over This is a Bust is that I really recognized how the people in the book really said things that you would expect real people to say. The new characters were vivid and the struggles of immigrants in Chinatown seemed hopeless in an authentic way. Like, this is the situation and it sucks but maybe one person can make a difference ...more
Tenement Talks
Oct 01, 2010 Tenement Talks rated it it was amazing
Are you an Ed Lin fan in the New York Area?

FREE TALK "Chinatown Noir" with ED LIN and HENRY CHANG hosted by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum!

Two master storytellers pull us into Chinatown's darkest recesses in their newest mysteries, which teem with snakeheads, urban terrorists, and corrupt cops. Signed copies of Red Jade (Chang) and Snakes Can't Run (Lin) will be available.

When: Wednesday, October 27 at 6:30pm
Where: 108 Orchard Street, New York, New York, 10002
Please RSVP at events@tenement.
Debbi Mack
May 11, 2010 Debbi Mack rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorite-reads
I highly recommend this book, which explores the world of "snakeheads" (or human smugglers) from the point of view of a Chinese-American police detective. I only gave it four stars, because some of the dialogue gets a bit speechy at times. On the whole, however, it's a great read.

I've written a review of this book for Mystery Scene Magazine, which you can read here:

I've also posted about the review on my blog at

Alex Rogers
Mar 15, 2011 Alex Rogers rated it did not like it
Poor. I like tightly written noir, and also like it in vernacular - but Lin's English is serviceable at best, clumsy at worst, and I soon got tired of the book. I want the writing to either disappear completely, or be beautiful / interesting / amusing if it is present - Lin's writing reads like a bad translation from another language (Mandarin? Fukien?) His characters and stories are potentially interesting.
Jun 02, 2010 Robin rated it it was amazing
What a cool book. Set in the late 70's, Ed Lin's detective is a Chinese American Vietnam vet who works in Chinatown. The story is complicated and no one can really be trusted - it's a wonderful police book as well as a wonderful noir book, with a setting and time period that hasn't been done to death. Because the point of view is very Chinese, it makes the book even more of an intriguing read.
Deedee Light
Jan 12, 2011 Deedee Light rated it did not like it
This books is terribly written. The language dull and characters flat. I did read it was translated and only hope that this book in its tongue is worth more than the 1/2 star i'll give it. I'm gifting that 1/2 star because the book does good job of explaining the Taiwanese KMT and Chinese politics that were the result of Mao's ousting of Chiang Kai-shek.
May 16, 2010 Harvee rated it really liked it
History of Chinatown in NYC, origin of tongs, snakeheads. i like mysteries that also give some authentic history and a sense of place. A full review...
Ken French
Mar 31, 2010 Ken French rated it it was amazing
Shelves: genre-fiction
Maybe even better than its predecessor, This Is a Bust. Robert Chow is more likable here and, while the crime plot is more central than in the first book, it still has a strong feel for Chinatown in the 70s.
May 24, 2010 Richard rated it really liked it
A sequel to Lin's This is a Bust. I love Lin's depiction of 1970s NYC Chinatown. As with This is a Bust the mystery isn't really the point of the book and Detective Chow isn't really the best detective, the book is much more about atmosphere. Fans of Richard Price would likely enjoy this one.
Aug 15, 2012 Pamela rated it really liked it
Interesting look at the life of a Taiwanese policeman in the US...
Jared Prebish
Feb 03, 2013 Jared Prebish rated it liked it
More like *** 1/2. A serviceable police procedural with lots of Chinese history and politics. Not as good as Lin's previous novel, but I'm still interested enough in reading the next in the series
Oct 24, 2011 Tenzin rated it really liked it
more than a mystery. Lots about Chinese American subculture. Personally relevant. Lot about struggles of immigrants.
Leslie rated it liked it
Jan 06, 2016
Aarthi rated it really liked it
Jan 19, 2015
Larry rated it liked it
Jun 10, 2010
Duncan Comrie
Duncan Comrie rated it really liked it
Apr 02, 2013
Jade rated it liked it
Nov 07, 2014
serena rated it liked it
Jun 16, 2010
Lai-san rated it liked it
Jul 06, 2010
Paul Hoch
Paul Hoch rated it really liked it
Aug 12, 2014
Terri Rowe
Terri Rowe rated it it was amazing
Apr 12, 2015
Merv rated it liked it
Dec 23, 2010
Peter rated it really liked it
Jun 21, 2013
Catzie rated it really liked it
Jul 26, 2010
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FREE TALK with ED LIN in NYC 1 3 Oct 05, 2010 11:17AM  
Ed Lin is a journalist by training and an all-around stand-up kinda guy. He's the author of several books: Waylaid, his literary debut, and his Robert Chow crime series, set in 1970s Manhattan Chinatown: This Is a Bust, Snakes Can't Run, and One Red Bastard. Lin, who is of Taiwanese and Chinese descent, is the first author to win three Asian American Literary Awards. Lin lives in New York with his ...more
More about Ed Lin...

Other Books in the Series

Detective Robert Chow (3 books)
  • This Is a Bust
  • One Red Bastard (Robert Chow)

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