Jettisoning the literary pretensions that blunted his powerful Dispatches from the Cold (1998), Chang unfurls a thriller that’s content to grab you by the neck and shake hard.
Even though he blames himself for the death of Paul Baumgartner, his fellow-bodyguard at the security firm ProServ, Allen Choice comes out of the slaying looking like a hero. After all, he checked everything he was supposed to, he returned the attacker’s fire, and he kept the client from getting shot. But Allen steps over a line when, stung by guilt and San Jose Sentinel reporter Linda Maldonado’s suggestion that maybe Paul was the intended target for an ambush his wife Sonia set up, he agrees to help Sonia look into Paul’s recent affairs. His first unpleasant surprise is that Paul was taking on freelance security jobs, a move that would’ve gotten him fired if his superiors at ProServ had ever found out. His second comes when one of Paul’s contacts, WestSun Imports owner Roger Milian, denies ever having known him, and WestSun general manager Vic Durante runs from Allen’s shadow. And his third, the most painful of all, is the realization that Roger Milian is the same boss Allen’s own father was working for when he was killed on the job 20 years ago, throwing his orphaned son on the tender mercies of his formidable Aunt Insook. As this last revelation sinks Allen’s teeth deep into WestSun and forces him to reassess the father he thought he knew, he begins almost imperceptibly to lose control of the case, imperiling every witness foolish enough to talk to him, till he’s fired in disgrace, deprived of his allies, dumped by his lawyer, and framed for murder.
A smoking Korean-American Presumed Innocent presented almost entirely in breakneck dialogue, with occasional pauses for scene changes and gunfire.