The UK edition (Orion Books) was shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association and The Thriller and Mystery Club's prestigious CWA John Creasy Memorial Dagger award. The daggers celebrate the very best in crime and thriller writing in 2004.
"In addition to a gripping story and keen observations about contemporary Los Angeles, [Hamilton] also offers an undeniably winning narrator: intelligent, impulsive Eve is sharp on the outside and vulnerable on the inside, willing to cogitate with equal intensity on issues private (a lost love, a dead brother) and public (racial and socioeconomic politics, "the media's scorching glare")."
"She reminds me of a younger, more vulnerable version of Edna Buchanan's Miami-based Britt Montero, just as the novel's street-level approach to journalism and justice are reminiscent of Buchanan's earlier, stronger fictions."
—LA Times, August 5, 2001
"Her meaty first novel covers all this rich sociological territory and more...Eve Diamond, who has been given the author's former job as a suburban reporter for the Los Angeles Times, becomes aware of this shadowy subculture when she covers a carjacking at a fancy mall that caters to affluent Asians...[Eve's] anger informs her insights into the depravities that lie buried in insular societies."
—New York Times Book Review, August 5, 2001
"A furiously boiling stew...spiced by an unflinching look at family dysfunction, Asian-American style."
"A cross-cultural tale of betrayal and murder...This is an intricate story, and Hamilton has the knack for writing about the immigrant experience and race relations on a romantic and political level."
—USA Today, August 9, 2001 (which called The Jasmine Trade one of the summer's top mysteries)
"Like most mystery readers, we're always pleased to learn about something new while reading for pleasure, and we learned a great deal in Denise Hamilton's engrossing first novel, The Jasmine Trade (Scribner, 281 pages, $ 24). In particular, the author, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, uses to good advantage her extensive knowledge of 'parachute kids,' affluent Chinese teens who are left alone in Southern California suburbs while their parents continue to reside and work in Hong Kong.
With only a housekeeper or perhaps a figurehead guardian to turn to, the teens are given lavish allowances ($ 3,000 a month) and expected to make the grades needed to get into top U.S. colleges. The surprising thing is that most of them do. Reporter Eve Diamond stumbles across this subculture when she's assigned to cover the death of 17-year-old Marina Lu, who dies in a carjacking just weeks before her elaborate wedding to a Chinese businessman. As she talks to Marina's friends, Eve begins to suspect the death wasn't random, and her subsequent discoveries lead to another even more shocking subculture: the so-called jasmine trade, which imports Asian teens to be used as sex slaves in suburban brothels, impounding their earnings and imprisoning them in lives of hopelessness and despair.
Hamilton puts a face on this shameful practice in the person of May-li, a destitute young Chinese peasant girl whom Eve tries in vain to rescue from her awful fate. Eve is a wonderful creation, believable not only as a reporter who takes her job seriously (despite her cynicism about its values) but also as a woman with a soft heart, a sharp intellect and a driving curiosity. Her story—brisk, sometimes edgy, and always full of revelations about the world she lives in—is a perceptive social document as well as a gripping work of fiction.
Denise Hamilton and Eve Diamond are the real deal, and we'll be very disappointed if we don't see more of them."
—Denver Post, August 5, 2001
"Reporters get a lot of grief for pushing a microphone in the face of grieving parents and asking how they feel. Ever wonder how we feel doing it? Well, Denise Hamilton will give you a very good look at this side of the notebook and pencil in her debut mystery, The Jasmine Trade (Scribner, $24, 279 pages). Untended children, especially those in their teens, are trouble magnets and Miss Hamilton explores their odd world with understanding and compassion... Miss Hamilton writes like the pro she is. Her Eve Diamond is fully developed and—take my word for it—a fully believable newspaper woman. Miss Hamilton has a nice feel for location and her dialogue sounds real. The plot is a grabber and the book is a winner. Here is another author worth watching."
—The Washington Times, July 15, 2001
"Denise Hamilton's The Jasmine Trade has all the plot twists and creepy characters one would expect from an L.A. noir thriller, moving from the carjacking death of a 17-year-old high school student into a shadowy world of sex slavery and murder for hire. The tale is narrated by a promotion-seeking Los Angeles Times reporter and focuses on the "parachute kids" of the San Gabriel Valley, wealthy Asian teens who care for themselves while their parents live and conduct business overseas.
Despite its flashier elements—blackmail, slipped mickeys, and gangland hits, to name a few- it is Hamilton's depiction of daily journalists that sells the book. In her first novel, reporters lie, flatter, cajole and jerk people around to get their stories before abandoning sources to chase the next hot lead. We'll trust Hamilton on this one; for ten years she worked as a staff reporter for, yes, the L.A. Times."
—Los Angeles Magazine, August 2001
"For this reviewer, there were a couple of real delights. Former Los Angeles Times journalist Denise Hamilton's The Jasmine Trade is one of the best evocations of the City Of Angels that I've encountered in a long time. It compares to writers such as T. Jefferson Parker and Michael Connelly, who both endorse it.
Powerfully written, this noirish offering takes us into one of the many parts of Los Angeles that most tourists don't get to see...It's the classic case of the nosy journo who senses something's not exactly right and gets deeper and deeper into the case until her own life is at risk.
What lifts The Jasmine Trade above the pack in this tried-and-true formula is the quality of the writing, plotting and characters—coupled with the fact that at the conclusion we know much more about the core of Los Angeles as a city and a culture than we did when we opened the book."
—Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald
"Jasmine rises way above local interest. Hamilton's confident prose reads like a dream; through fiction she tells deeper truths about ostensibly local young people who really inhabit a parallel universe."
—Larry Wilson / Editor, PASADENA STAR-NEWS
[In a review of the movie "Better Luck Tomorrow"]
"For anyone looking for an interesting treatment of this topic, I'd suggest getting hold of Denise Hamilton's 2001 mystery novel The Jasmine Trade, the story of rich Asian kids sent to live by themselves in America so they can go to high school here and qualify for American colleges. Hamilton not only tells a good story, she gives you the sense that she's opening up an entire social subculture. And if the kids in her book are hell-bent on self-destruction, they're also believable characters—both childish and jaded, hurt and hardened. The Jasmine Trade tells you something you don't know. "Better Luck Tomorrow" is so much like every movie of the week you've ever seen about teens in trouble that you could probably relate the plot accurately if you stayed for half of it."
—Charles Taylor, SALON.COM, April 23, 2003
"Well-plotted and the author clearly empathises with her young characters."
—London Sunday Telegraph
"Hamilton's confident prose reads like a dream; through fiction she tells deeper truths about ostensibly local young people who really inhabit a parallel universe."
"Denise Hamilton has made an auspicious debut with The Jasmine Trade. Her writing is superb—spare, yet she depicts her characters and settings with great clarity. You could label The Jasmine Trade urban noir, or hard boiled suspense. What it is is fine writing from a gifted storyteller. Hamilton joins the ranks of Bob Crais and Paula Woods as an example of Los Angeles crime writing at its best."
—Sally Powers, I Love a Mystery Web Site
"An exciting investigative tale that will shock the reader...The story line is exciting and the cast seems real."
"What does work—and work very well—is the author's thoughtful, eye-opening look at a new version of a destructive, ongoing social evil: kids joining gangs to find family."
—Booklist, May 1, 2001
"The Jasmine Trade is more than a good crime story. It is the crime novel as sociological study. Denise Hamilton delivers a gripping narrative with a busload of intriguing characters. And all the while she unflinchingly points her flashlight into one of the dark corners of our world. Read it and learn."
—Michael Connelly—author of The Concrete Blonde, Angel's Flight, Trunk Music, The Poet, Bloodwork, The Black Ice, Black Echo.
"Denise Hamilton has used her skills as a journalist to create a heartrending story about the plight of parachute kids that is at once eye-opening and compelling. The Jasmine Trade reminds us that sometimes a terrible price must be paid to achieve the American Dream."
—Lisa See, author of "On Gold Mountain," "Flower Net" and "Interior."
"The Jasmine Trade is a strong debut from a good new writer. Actually, Hamilton is an experienced reporter, and her sharp eye, tough mind and open heart give this novel its credibility, emotion and compassion. Her look at Chinese-American crime in Southern California is revealing and unsettling."
—T. Jefferson Parker, author of "Red Light" and "Silent Joe."
"Intricately plotted, breathless in places and achingly bittersweet in others, Denise Hamilton's first novel is a gem. I traveled to places I didn't know at all, in the Asian communities surrounding Los Angeles, and I met people I might never have heard speak if not for her book. It's not just a mystery, it's an entire world laid out in tapestry form."
—Susan Straight, author of The Gettin Place, I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen, Aquaboogie
"The Jasmine Trade gives us a compelling new heroine in Eve Diamond, whose determination and vulnerability make her impossible to resist. In this fascinating insider's look at Los Angeles, Denise Hamilton tells us as much about the heart's capacity for trust and deception as she does about crime."
—Leah Stewart, author of "Body of a Girl."
"An auspicious debut! Denise Hamilton reports in from the front lines of L.A.'s crime scene and tells it like it is with a detailed sense of place and a rip roaring sense of pace. The Jasmine Trade is a hell of a book."
—Terrill Lankford, author of "Shooters."
"Hamilton writes from experience and with sensitivity, revealing a disturbing and painful phenomenon in our community that needs to be addressed to help our young people."
—Angi Ma Wong, Intercultural and Feng Shui Consultant and best-selling Author of "Feng Shui Dos and Taboos", Bookbrowse.com