Siobhan O’Brien is marking her second anniversary at the Ed Baker Investigative Agency when she finds her boss dead at his desk and then learns that he has left his business to her. A Korean American adoptee, who must explain her name constantly, she takes her first solo case from an old acquaintance. Josie Sykes’ daughter, Penny, cut off contact with her mother just months into her freshman year at Llewellyn College in upstate New York, and after Josie’s efforts to reach the girl are rebuffed by a feminist contingent protesting changes in the direction the college is taking, Josie hires Siobhan to find Penny. It’s a job that takes the neophyte detective into the inner workings of Llewellyn, whose former-model president, despite the college’s supposed financial straits, is launching a yoga and healing center and pursuing bizarre research on forestalling aging. Despite a somewhat hasty wrap-up, this first in a series holds promise, given Woo’s punchy prose style, diverse milieu, and the potential romantic relationship between Siobhan and the lawyer whose office is down the hall. A series to watch. — Michele Leber
The second review is in, and it’s also good!
Woo strikes out in a wholly new direction with this soft-boiled debut mystery about a private eye’s search for a frenemy’s missing daughter.
On the day she’s celebrating her second anniversary with the Ed Baker Investigative Agency, Korean American adoptee Siobhan O’Brien, nee Kim Shee-Bong, finds her boss unexpectedly dead, leaving her the sole proprietor of a business worth maybe $20,000 on a good day. Will Siobhan, an ex-reporter of 40, shut the place down? Not if pushy Josie Sykes, the younger sister of Siobhan’s late friend Marlene, has anything to say about it. Josie’s daughter, Penelope Hae Jun Sykes, who, like Siobhan, was adopted, has vanished from Llewellyn College, where she was a first-year student. The members of the Womyn of Llewellyn, who took her in and maybe did a number on her, insist that she’s fled the emotional abuse of her overbearing mother and that they don’t have to answer to her. Siobhan, who interviewed Llewellyn president Vera Wheeler shortly after her appointment, finds that an awful lot has changed on campus in the five years since. Wheeler seems determined to admit no one but beauty queens and make over the college into a temple of state-of-the-art cosmetology. Her plans have put her at odds with the Krishna Center in nearby Hawthorne, New York, where Penny’s allegedly hunkered down—or maybe, as Siobhan gradually learns when she goes undercover at Llewellyn and Krishna as a reporter, they haven’t after all. Woo’s vision of the Stepford College is logistically shaky but metaphorically resonant.
The prize is a heroine who’s by turns wide-eyed, gravely amused, susceptible, and plenty cool enough for an encore.Kirkus Reviews – https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/sung-j-woo/skin-deep-woo/
An essay about my dog, on Medium.
The first review of Skin Deep is in, and I’m grateful it’s a good one!
This winning series launch from Woo (Love Love) introduces PI Siobhan O’Brien, a 40-year-old American of Korean descent who was adopted in infancy by an Irish father and a Norwegian mother. After two years working as an operative at the Ed Baker Investigative Agency in Athena, N.Y., Siobhan, to her surprise, inherits the agency when her boss has a fatal heart attack. Her first client as the new owner is Josie Sykes, the white sister of a deceased childhood friend and fellow Korean adoptee. Josie’s 18-year-old adopted Korean daughter, Penny, is missing and was last seen at Llewellyn College. Siobhan enrolls in a program for older students and soon becomes aware of the danger that lurks on Llewellyn’s seemingly placid campus. Siobhan holds her own as she contends with deadly doings at a yoga center, menacing college initiations, and bizarre researchers studying “the science of beauty.” Woo perceptively explores the theme of image and personal identity throughout. Readers will look forward to seeing more of the beguiling Siobhan.Publishers Weekly