UNDERKILL: An Allen Choice Novel
The elements that made Chang's first mystery, Over the Shoulder (2001), so notable—the unusual take on Silicon Valley and San Francisco and its lead character's tortuous investigation into his own tangled roots—are, alas, absent in the author's second book about Korean-American executive protection expert Allen Choice. Fraught with doubts about his deteriorating romance with Linda Maldonaldo, the tough Hispanic reporter who lent a hand in Over the Shoulder, Choice is also facing serious workplace stress—the executive protection market is drying up, and he's doing seedy private detective work that he considers beneath him. When Linda's younger brother is killed in a drug-related car crash in Malibu, Allen takes a load of emotional baggage with him as he flies down to L.A. to help. Chang is a gifted writer, but he often makes his hero as lugubrious and full of self-doubts as a Woody Allen character, without the redeeming laughs. It doesn't help that the death of Linda's brother explodes into a complicated but not terribly interesting family saga involving an abusive father and an Internet child pornography venture. But one character—a Korean-American woman named Serena who is about to move up to the San Francisco area—offers hope that Choice's next adventure might return him to more friendly terrain. (May 5)
Forecast:Blurbs from Michael Connelly and James Sallis should help remind readers that Chang remains a writer to watch.