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Steph Cha Books In Order

Publication Order of Juniper Song Mystery Books

Follow Her Home (2013) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Beware Beware (2014) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle
Dead Soon Enough (2015) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Your House Will Pay (2019) Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Steph Cha

Steph Cha is a Korean American author best known for her Juniper Song Mystery Trilogy and Your House Will Pay standalone novel. Her trilogy features detective Juniper Song as the protagonist. Steph was born in Van Nuys in California and spent her childhood in Encino, California, with her parents and her two younger brothers. She studied at Harvard Westlake School. She later joined Stanford University, where she majored in English and Asian Studies.

In 2013, Steph Cha became a published novelist when her first book, Follow Minotaur Books published her Home. The novel has received positive reviews from Kirkus Reviews, Los Angeles Times, Library Journal, KoreAm Journal, and Publishers Weekly. She has also published food writing and freelance book reviews for the Los Angeles Times.

Follow Her Home

Steph Cha’s series debut novel and apparent her debut book in the publishing world is a double exposure of LA, two different images of the city layered on top of the other. One image shows paint the actual reality of modern Los Angeles, one that’s seen through a car window when stuck in traffic; the other image is the film version, consecrated by Raymond Chandler (and subsequently Walter Mosley, Ross Macdonald, James Ellroy, and Megan Abbott) where a car is a perfect place to hide a body.

The opening of this book is strangely familiar: a decorated apartment building in Los Angeles. We can already visualize the body count increase, and the mystery is about to explode. The apartment building is named The Marlowe.

Raymond Chandler is one of the veterans of crime fiction, particularly for stories set on the Southern California streets. His impact on crime fiction significantly helped expand crime fiction genre setting to urban centers and set the pace for using a place as a character. Chandler’s detective protagonist Philip Marlowe was strong man of his times, and the author a faithful chronicler of them, which included allegations against the gays and minorities and not so gentle demonization of his female characters. Even though such tactics might make contemporary readers wince, they haven’t decreased his appeal for succeeding generations of writers Michael Connelly and Robert Parker).

Now add to this list Steph Cha, a California native who first book Follow Her Home kicks off as homage to Chandler and Marlowe before exploring the different mean alleys. We meet detective Juniper Song, a half employed tutor and one of the first-generation Korean American on her way to a housewarming party for her friend Luke Cook. Cook has relocated to Marlowe, which is located less than two miles south of Ivar and Hollywood where Chandler’s detective offices were located. Supported by his wealthy attorney father while he schools documentary film making at USC, Luke could as well fit into Chandler’s book even though his friends are a diverse group of the ’20s as evidently shown by the assortments of Birkenstocks, flip-flops, ballet flats and Nikes clogging the entrance of his apartment house.
One of the pairs of shoes stands out, which surprises detective Song. The shoes belong to Lori Lim, a beautiful Korean American who is seemingly interested in Luke. Song is shocked when Cook asks for a unique favor- investigates whether Lori is having an affair with his father.

Luke knows that Song has been in love with playing detective since when she discovered Marlowe at the age of 13. As the story unfolds, we come to learn how Song progressed on her first unofficial case, which involved her younger sister. But the new case is equally challenging because the only evidence available is a $3000 receipt that Luke found in his father’s wallet. His distress over the results the affair would have on his fragile mother moves Song’s heartstrings, and in response she befriends drunken Lim and drives her home. Similarly to Marlowe, Song gets a reward for her curiousness by getting knocked out when she’s leaving Lim’s home. Her cellphone is missing in her purse. She gets in the car and drives to her apartment only to find a body in the trunk. She also discovers that her house has been raided most likely by a man who calls soon afterward, issuing threats against her family.

Throughout the story, Song confirms that she is no Marlowe, but on some levels she shows similarity to Marlowe’s playbook- drinking, smoking, and refusing to be deterred by threats, avoiding the cops, and pursuing the truth even when those she loves the most are put at risk. Nonetheless, Song is an original lead character worth excusing for her admiration with the detective. Even more compelling is that Song can learn the difference between fantasy and reality, between reading about Marlowe getting gradually weakened and experiencing a swollen head, between the enthusiasm of a character with a gun and owning one herself for the first time in her life.

Narrated in the first-person perspective, Follow Her Home and establishes Song’s backstory, her relationship with her single mother, the tragic fate to her sister, and her friendship with Diego and Luke.

Your House Will Pay

Steph Cha’s second standalone novel is a powerful novel about racial tensions in Los Angele, following two families, one African-American and the other Korean-American dealing with the results of a decades-old crime.

After the cops shooting of a black teenager, LA is as tense as it’s been since the unrest of the early 1990s. Protests and patrols are staged all over the city, and it’s in these dangerous times that the two families must face their pasts. Grace Park lives with her Korean immigrants’ parents and wonders why her sister Miriam has not spoken to her mother in years. The rift in her family is growing wider and she’s desperate to see some reconciliation and angry that her parents are hiding the truth about the cause of the fallout.

On the other hand, Shawn Matthews is dealing with a fragmented family of his own. His sister was killed as a teenager in 1991, and this new police shooting is scratching the wound that has never healed. His cousin has just been released from prison and wants to reconnect with their family after being locked away for so many years. When another crime his Los Angeles, the two families collide in ways they never thought would be possible after decades of violence, loss, and injustice.

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