cover image Little Saigon

Little Saigon

T. Jefferson Parker. Hyperion Books, $17.95 (354pp) ISBN 978-0-312-02245-7

This workmanlike suspense thriller by the author of Laguna Heat takes its name from the populous Vietnamese community in California's Orange County, an intriguing although largely unexplored backdrop for the action. Chuck Frye, a surf bum who has recently failed at journalism, business and marriage, lives in the shadow of his war-hero brother Bennett, and their father, a wealthy real-estate tycoon. Bennett's Vietnamese wife is a singer whose protest music has made her a heroine among anticommunists and Asian expatriates. When she is kidnapped during a performance, Chuck joins the search for her, hoping to end his estrangement from the Frye clan. But the more he learns about the crime's motivepolitics, gang warfare or revenge are all possibilitiesthe more intently his family tries to shut him out of the investigation. Meanwhile, the body count continues to mount. Parker's methodical story moves briskly but permits few surprises, and his novel could do without a silly subplot about Chuck's personal redemption, which apparently lies not only in finding his sister-in-law but also in regaining the courage to ride a big wave after a surfing accident. 125,000 first printing; $125,000 ad/promo. (September)