UNDERKILL by Leonard Chang


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Now that he’s flushed every last skeleton from his family’s closet (Over the Shoulder, 2001), Allen Choice is ready to start on his girlfriend Linda Maldonado’s. Or is that former girlfriend? Even before the San Jose Sentinel feature writer left for Los Angeles to find her brother Hector, who’d taken off again, she’d been ever more remote. And even when she learns that Hector’s been found in a smoldering wreck and asks Allen to put his work toward a p.i.’s license on hold so that he can help her, she keeps her distance from him, introducing him to her middle-class family—who wonder why her Korean-American friend can’t speak Korean—but saving her confidences for her editor back at the Sentinel and getting jealous when Hector’s ex-girlfriend Serena Yew hits on Allen and he accompanies her to a rave hoping to get more information about Hector’s drug connections. At first the investigation seems no more than a daisy chain, with every one of Hector’s squirrelly pals pleading ignorance about his low-level dealing but dropping the name of somebody who might know more. Gradually, however, Allen’s search focuses on Lowell Bangs, the Ecstasy supplier who he’s told “probably killed Hector.” To get the truth, Allen pushes hard, harder, then too hard, and Bangs finally pushes back, setting the stage for a startling surprise and a high-caliber climax.

A gripping story laced with action, though moody Allen’s determination to see everything that’s happened to Linda’s family as an echo of his own life keeps it from the breakneck pace of his scorching debut.

Pub Date: May 5th, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-30843-4
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2003


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