Beware Beware, by Steph Cha *****


Steph Cha’s new thriller, Beware Beware, starts out like a sassy beach read and ends with muscle and authority. It’s gritty, urban,edgy, and ultimately deals with a burning real life issue in a way that is not preachy, but instead is integral to the plot. Her character development and pacing are handled as expertly as a champion driver at the Indy 500. Buckle up and be ready!
Daphne Freamon, a renowned painter, contacts PI Juniper Song, the first Korean-American to join the formidable array of female sleuths marketed in contemporary detective fiction, for what appears to be a routine domestic investigation case. In the end, it is far more. There are more twists and turns than you can possibly imagine, and the pages turn so rapidly that by the end of the weekend, I was done, yet still thinking about what I had read, which for me is significant; usually I mow through one book, reflect long enough to spin a review, and then move on.
Freamon hires Song, a hard-drinking, hard-working PI with a past that haunts her daily, to follow her boyfriend around. Is he having an affair? Is he back on drugs?
The answer is obviously “yes” to at least one of these, and yet Freamon still wants Song on the case. Two weeks have gone by and she’s still doing this work after she has more than enough information; something feels off about it, but hey, it’s Daphne’s dime. Daphne Freamon wants her to continue, and Song follows through. Oh boy, does she follow through!
A distraction that becomes urgent, then menacing, is the ugly man who has taken an unmistakable yet unwelcome interest in Song’s roommate, whom she considers her little sister. Why can’t Lori lose this guy? When Lori’s boyfriend, the one she loves, is beaten so badly that he requires hospitalization, the facts come out, and they aren’t pretty. Now Song has two problems instead of one. How can she protect Lori from this thug, a man with a thousand tentacles that reach everywhere?
Freamon, who has become not only a client but a friend as well, sees the problem too. She has a quick word with Lori at a nightclub. From there, things speed up. You may find yourself leaning forward as you read!
One small thing that twitched at the back of my brain all the way through the book, being a practical-minded gal, was whether Freamon pays up for Song’s sweat and hard work. I keep waiting for Song to send an invoice or cash a check. She spends so much time on this case and does so much for this woman, and I just want to know that Song can pay her bills at the end of the day. It shouldn’t bother me, given the immediacy of the story line, and yet it does.
This picky detail shouldn’t keep you away from fresh, original writing by a new talent who is sure to be a huge hit. Cha writes with confidence and authority, and if you take this book to the beach, you won’t notice the sand or the sea. Carve out some time, because you won’t want to do anything else till you have turned the very last page!


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