The Gyopo PI

Fade to Clear coverLeonard Chang: Fade to Clear
Thomas Dunne Books, 2004
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This is the third novel featuring the private investigator Allen Choice, a Korean American whose name indicates how far he has moved away from his Korean roots. He can’t speak the language, but he gets annoyed when people call him Chinese or Japanese. He dates a Korean girl, and is nervous at the impending visit of her parents to check out on the suitability of their daughter’s boyfriend. He likes Korean rice cakes, but is intimidated at the thought of a Korean wedding. He’s sustained by the love of his girlfriend and also by reading Kirkegaard: an orphan and a college dropout, he’s prepared to take self improvement so far, but not far enough to take Korean language classes.

Chang has invested a lot of time in giving his character depth, and the glimpses into Choice’s past makes one want to read some of the other books in the series to see what else is revealed. Looking at the summaries on Amazon, some of the same characters appear in each book, lending the series continuity. The plot marches on briskly, with sufficient moments of suspense to keep the pages turning. What starts as a simple custody case in a messy marital breakdown soon becomes a lot more complicated. And there are a couple of twists at the end just as you think it’s all wrapped up.

Those hoping for an in-depth look into the Korean American experience will be disappointed. Such cultural explorations are only dealt with in passing. Those looking for an entertaining and well-written detective story will be well satisfied and will want to seek out the earlier instalments.

Other books in the series are:

  • Over the Shoulder (2001)
  • Underkill (2003)

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