One of the reasons we read crime fiction is for that satisfying click at the end, when everything falls into place and justice is done. You close the book with a sigh of relief because, once again, all is well with the world. But that isn’t the goal of Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay. Though all the elements are there—murders, police, secrets, suspense—Cha pushes the limits of the genre with this ambitious exploration of the lives of two families on opposite sides of the racial divide in Los Angeles, one African-American and one Korean-American, linked by an incident that blew up into riots in 1992. It’s part Greek tragedy, part contemporary noir.
A native of L.A., Cha drew her inspiration from a true story—the killing of teenage Latasha Harlins by a Korean convenience-store owner, who was let off with no prison time—imagining the paths the families had taken since and putting them on a collision course in the present. (With one exception, the characters aren’t based on real people.) It’s a bold approach, which succeeds because Cha cuts through the noise of the headlines, demonstrations, and social-media incitement so we can make out the individual voices beneath the din.