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I've read & reviewed a couple of Connelly novels before and found them highly addictive, so I was really happy to see this in the library recently. Unfortunately it wasn't quite the unputdownable read I had hoped because for some reason it just didn't feel like it was up to his usually high standards.
Nine Dragons opens with the murder of a Chinese man, Mr Li, in his own store 'Fortune Liquors'. Enter Bosch, the much-loved Connelly character that could knock the socks off Columbo. His assignment to the case isn't as objective as you'd expect because he came across Mr Li years ago during some LA riots when he provided him some refuge (and the means for a much-needed cigarette) from the terror ensuing around them. This small but quite touching tale explains why Bosch now feels a strong need to vindicate this man's death and bring to justice his killer.
Fast forward a little bit and the odd clue is found, leading Bosch to links with dangerous Triads in the area. We're given some background history which then sheds some light on the tension between the Chinese store owner, his family, and these dangerous men. Could they be responsible? Was Mr Li paying off the Triads until something went wrong, perhaps a missed payment, only to be fixed by a bullet?
Nothing is ever quite that straight forward and things take a sharp turn for the worse as Bosch becomes inextricably and subjectively involved. A video is sent to him of his daughter, who was living in the China area with her mother. Believing she's been kidnapped, potentially by triads, because of Bosch's involvement in the case, he does what any impossibly suave detective would do; he gets on the first flight to HK.
So, we now have Bosch travelling to a place called Kowloon to find daughter Maddie, whilst back at home the case is on tenderhooks awaiting his return. I won't give anything else away, but I'll just say that things are not as they seem, and they rarely are when Connelly's writing the pages. There's action galore and the pace rarely skips a beat. We get input from different characters throughout the book, including the help of a guy from the Asian Crimes Department, which helps in making the plot more complex. It's not overly complex, however, because Connelly has a way of keeping you up-to-date with what's happening so I didn't feel lost amidst the action.
Nine Dragons is intelligently written with an original plot and has some quirky twists that keep it fresh. I can't quite put my finger on why I didn't feel this was as engaging as I had expected, but I think it was because of the character development. I didn't feel as close to Bosch as I have in previous novels; the degree of empathy and depth of characters wasn't as great as it could have been, which would have made it more enjoyable for me as a 'Harry Bosch' series fan. This is actually novel 14 for those who have read his work previously, but it's a stand-alone book so it won't matter if you haven't. In fact, those who are new to Connelly may enjoy this slightly more due to having fewer expectations.
Overall, despite this perhaps not being up there with some other Bosch novels in my opinion, this is still a well-written book with lots to offer to keep you on your toes, so I would recommend.
2010 , 464 pages over 47 chapters
RRP £7.99 but selling on Amazon for £3.49
I'm a huge fan of Harry Bosch, and waited patiently for this book to come out. It was not a dissapointment, and I read it in about two sittings, after finally persuading myself to put it down and go to bed on the first night!
The story delves into the most involving parts of this series, Harry's personal life. We learn more about his ex wife and daughter and about what Harry is willing to do to protect them from a case which seems straightforward at first, but leads to him having to make a journey across the world to Hong Kong, to investigate the triads. As a side plot, we also learn more about his interactions with his collegues, and how he is willing or un-willing to cut them any slack! His typical blunt way of dealing with things sets into motion some intricate repercussions for those around him, which we should be able to watch developing as the series progresses.
The depection of Hong Kong itself is realistic and fast paced, but in parts the action can be a bit farcical. It made me think of a Jean Claude Van Damme movie, which didn't really suit the character. And the way he gets over the fall out from this blockbuster shooting spree is laughably simple, although it is interesting how a character from another series is linked in to assist.
Overall, yeah, it is involving and interesting, with a few twists. The action is daft, but on a personal level, we connect with this interesting character even more and can see how he has evolved over the past decade.