RARA-AVIS: Leonard Chang's _Fade to Clear_

From: Larson, Craig ( Craig.Larson@trinidadstate.edu)
Date: 25 May 2004

This is the third of Chang's Allen Choice novels. Allen is a Korean-American private detective whose private life and dating woes are as important to the books as are the cases he takes on. So far, the first three books have all entangled Allen with Linda Maldonado, who became his girlfriend in book one, broke up with him in book two, and is back in book three to try to convince him to help find her niece, who's been kidnapped by her father in a custody battle. Allen has moved on (or at least he thinks he has) to Serena Yew, a Korean-American woman he met in book two, who helped him navigate the rave/drug scene, while he was searching for Linda's missing/presumed dead younger brother. Serena is more in touch with her heritage than Allen, and her parents come to visit, hoping to meet him, which just happens to throw some extra pressure on him at a rather volatile point in his investigation.

There are some bad guys at work in this one, and Allen's investigation turns up an elaborate money-laundering scheme, which might just have lead to the death of the previous PI working the case. Allen has to see this through--he feels he owes Linda--and he can't quite understand why Serena is so angry with him all the time. Throughout the book, Allen is also reading Kierkegaard, to further his own self-education, and he tries to fit the philosopher's ideas to what is happening in his own life, without much success.

Allen is a great character, a lonely, introspective guy who was raised by his distant aunt, following the "accidental" death of his father. As a young boy, he started doing things like following people around and eavesdropping, just as a way to pass the time, yet ironically, these pursuits make him an even better detective. He's an awkward guy in social situations and he can't quite understand why he keeps attracting these bright, beautiful women. He's very easy to identify with and the books have all been really fun so far. The California setting--Allen's home base is San Francisco and his cases have taken him around the state--is well realized and the private detective aspects of the books are also very satisfying.

I'm very glad I gave the first book, _Over the Shoulder_, a try and I hope Chang will be writing these books for a long time to come. Very highly recommended!

Craig Larson Trinidad, CO

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