Sunday, April 28, 2019

Follow Her Home: Steph Cha

Follow Her Home is the first of three books featuring Korean-American Juniper Song. I read this book in August 2018, but never had time to write a post about it. I liked the book so much I decided to do one now.

From the book cover:
Juniper Song knows secrets–how to keep them and how to search them out.  As a girl, noir fiction was her favorite escape, and Philip Marlowe has always been her literary idol. So when her friend Luke asks her to investigate a possible affair between his father and a young employee, Juniper (or "Song" as her friends call her) finds an opportunity to play detective. Driving through L.A.'s side streets, following leads, tailing suspects–it all appeals to Song's romantic ideal of the noir hero. 
But when she's knocked out while investigating a mysterious car and finds a body in her own trunk, Song lurches back to the real L.A., becoming embroiled in a crime that goes far beyond role play. What's more, this isn't the first time Song has stuck her nose in other people's business. As she fights to discover the truth about her friend's family, Song reveals one of her own deeply hidden secrets, something dark and damaging, urging her to see the current mystery through, to rectify the mistakes of her past life.
This book is hard to describe. It starts out seeming light, even frothy, contrary to the description of "L.A. noir" on the cover. It takes a long time to turn darker but when it does it gets very dark, very quickly. I don't think this switch in mood and style mid-way into the story would work for everyone but it did for me.

Philip Marlowe has always been Song's hero, and she models her "detecting" on his adventures. I did not initially like the idea of the amateur sleuth modeling herself after Philip Marlowe in Raymond Chandler's books, but it actually did work well in the end. (Although the Philip Marlowe books are hard-boiled, not noir.  I think the description of "noir" gets thrown around a lot where it doesn't really apply.)

There is a secondary story of Song's relationship with her depressed sister. That part of the story is important to the whole, but the process of the story going back and forth from the present to Juniper's earlier days with her sister threw me off at times.

There are two main themes throughout the book: family relationships and the experience of being Korean American and a woman. I enjoy reading about families, so this was right up my alley. And I liked reading about a female protagonist who keeps pushing to find the answers to questions, no matter what.

In the end: 

I loved this book. I have the next two books in this series, and I just found out that Steph Cha has another book coming in October 2019 (not part of the Juniper Song series).


Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2013
Length:      278 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Juniper Song #1
Setting:      Los Angesles, CA
Genre:       Mystery
Source:     I purchased my copy.


Margot Kinberg said...

Oh, this really sounds intriguing, Tracy! I like the premise of the story-that-sort-of-mirrors-a-story, and Juniper sounds like an interesting character. I need to check this out, I think.

noirencyclopedia said...

I ordered this book from the library a couple of days ago, so should be reading it soonish.

TracyK said...

I think you would like it, Margot. I get tired of L.A. as a setting but I liked that about this one.

TracyK said...

I do hope to hear what you think of it. I was ambivalent for the first part of the book, then it grabbed me emotionally and would not let go.

Mathew Paust said...

I'm intrigued, Tracy. Gonna hafta check this writer out!

TracyK said...

Her writing is different, Matthew, and I enjoyed it.

Clothes In Books said...

Another book I'd not heard of, and which you have done a good job selling!

TracyK said...

I did enjoy the book, Moira, I think it has a lot to say while using the crime fiction format. It also has good clothing descriptions.

col2910 said...

Sounds intriguing. I'll make a note of the book and author and keep an eye out.

TracyK said...

If you run into this one, Col, I think you would like it. Not too gritty, but far from cozy.