Follow Her Home
Steph Cha
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Buy *Follow Her Home* by Steph Chaonline

Follow Her Home
Steph Cha
Minotaur Books
288 pages
April 2013
rated 4of 5 possible stars

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Cha’s debut is a great fun, the plot a perfect combination of pulp thriller and literary suspense that plays out on the gritty streets of Los Angeles. At twenty-seven, Juniper Song has achieved a measurable degree of independence and is happy living in her Park La Brea apartment. Her only regret is that her active life has been overshadowed by her sister, Iris, who still remains on her mind. A devotee of Chandler‘s quick-witted, masculine Philip Marlowe, introspective Juniper frequently finds herself obsessing on truth, guilt and personal responsibility.

A tough cookie prone to chain-smoking and swigging cold beers, Juniper is totally unprepared when her friend Lucas Cook asks her to track his current girlfriend, pouty-mouthed Lori, whom he thinks is sleeping with his wealthy father. Luke doesn’t make a habit of second-guessing his father, who founded the prestigious law firm Stokel, Levinson and Cook. An only child who grew up with an admiration for elder Cook, Luke has learned to cope under the relative absence of his mother Erin, a stay-at-home wife.

Unaware of the urgency of Luke’s pleas and his determination to maintain the impression of regularity symbolic of his privileged existence, Juniper is caught in a trail of violence involving a dead body, the identity of which gives her a vital clue and forces her to acknowledge the “little mission” that Luke sent her on could be dangerous. Juniper didn’t think Lori would be such a tough nut to crack as she begins to see a resemblance with Iris, a common thread reflected in the slippery, nymphet quality of Lori’s features.

Lumbering into the gauzy warmth of a Los Angeles summer, Juniper is far from the composed and confident Phillip Marlowe. Moving in response to "jolts of love and fury," Juniper is quick to react. Threatened by a connection her past “like a chain around her neck," we begin to see her struggle with the abandonment of the rules as she tries again and again to ease Iris’s pain.

In a the city where submissive young Asian women are an eroticized target and where girls like Iris and Lori are a “fetishist’s snack,” Juniper descends into the clubs of Korea Town, where modern-day geishas vie with high-end hookers. While Luke typically acts like a helpless Romeo, becoming a pawn in power of love and hate, Diego, Juniper’s handsome old-flame, assists her with the case, blithely unaware of the dangers involved.

Like Marlowe’s crime tales, Cha’s fast-moving story abounds with plot twists that converge in a haphazard manner. Given her speedy and powerful prose, it's not surprising that Cha is able to channel the ghost of Marlowe and create a seamy world ruled by secret lovers, over-protective mothers, sexual predators, purring hit men and enameled dames, all fighting for their way in a landscape where everything small and mean has some connection to life in the gutter.

Shepherding a degree of integrity behind the mask of corruption, Cha has hard-bitten private eye Chaz Lindley challenging mysterious Lori, small-time Diego has enough courage, loyalty, and unexpected integrity to win our respect. At the center is willful Juniper who, faced with blood-socked clash with death, proves she won't sell out to anyone, no matter the danger.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2013

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