Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly: A review
Is Michael Connelly bored with Harry Bosch? Hard to believe and yet three consecutive entries in this series have been sub-par, with this one being the weakest of the lot. Connelly is still going strong with the series; this one is number 15 and there are six more to go as I write this. Each new book still shows up on the best seller list, so maybe he got fresh inspiration and the books got better after this one, but that doesn't lessen my disappointment.
The book starts off interestingly enough and with the fast pace that we've come to expect from Connelly. The owner of a small liquor shop in South L.A. is shot to death in his shop. His name was John Li and he was known to Bosch from years before when he took refuge in the shop when he was working to control a riot in the area. He feels deeply moved by the man's death and promises his family that he will find his killer.
It soon develops that cultural differences will play a part in the investigation. The murdered man was of Chinese heritage and Bosch and his partner discover information that leads to the conclusion that Li was paying protection money to a Chinese gang called a triad which has its roots back in China. Bosch requests assistance from the Asian Gangs Unit and is joined by a detective named David Chu.
Unfortunately, this book reveals Bosch to be something of a self-righteous jerk with a problem of prejudice against Chinese dating back to his experiences during the Vietnam War. He treats his partner, who was shot and seriously injured on duty several months before, in an extremely high-handed and insensitive manner, and he allows his prejudice against Chinese to affect his working relationship with David Chu.
Bosch has always been fanatically devoted and single-minded in the pursuit of his mission, which is to catch murderers, and anyone who is any less driven than him is suspect. That is his problem with his young partner, Ignacio Ferras, who has a wife and three young kids and, for some reason, would like to occasionally spend time with them. Harry can't accept that.
Moreover, he is suspicious of the AGU detective, Chu, believing he may be somehow involved with the triads himself.
The investigation moves along but really isn't making much headway and then Harry receives some horrifying personal news. Apparently, his 13-year-old daughter, Madeline, who lives in Hong Kong with his ex-wife, Eleanor Wish, has been kidnapped. The message that he receives leads him to believe that she's being held by the triad in order to influence his investigation.
And this is where the story really goes off the rails.
Harry flies to Hong Kong (for the weekend, because surely he can clear this all up in a couple of days!) to find and rescue his daughter, and there he performs pretty much as he does back in L.A. He seems right at home and able to function well even though he's only been to Hong Kong a few times and doesn't speak Chinese. True, he has the help of his ex-wife and her good friend/lover, but still, I just found this whole twist in the plot unbelievable. There were too many coincidences, and his ability to follow the "clues" was head-shakingly unlikely. I mean, I know Harry's good, but nobody is this good!
Was there ever any doubt that it would all work out and Harry and his daughter would be on a plane back to the States by the end of the weekend? Never mind the fact that he left a trail of unexplained dead bodies behind him in Hong Kong.
I love Harry Bosch and I have very much enjoyed this series on the whole, but this one didn't do it for me. Here's hoping the next one, when I get around to it, will be better.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars