NINE DRAGONS by Michael Connelly
Maybe it’s just me, but this Harry Bosch book by Michael Connelly seemed a little off to me in the writing. Or maybe it was just because I borrowed it from the library and listened to it in my car instead of reading it.
Nine Dragons was one of those books I really anticipated after hearing the plot. This time a lot of the focus was supposed to be on Harry’s teenage daughter. That was true – to a degree.
The book opens up in what appears to be a gang-related shooting, then progresses into violence that forever changes Harry’s life on several levels. Along the way, the story touches on Harry’s past (although I struggled with the idea that he’d hung onto a matchbox for so long and hadn’t done anything with it).
Besides the initial murder, the book also focuses on Harry’s troubles with his current partner, which gets played out almost erratically along the way. I alternately felt for and hated the guy, but I understood where he was coming from, so that shows the character was well enough resolved. I also understood Harry’s frustrations with the situation.
The young detective from the Asian crime beat, Chu, was a welcome addition and it was fun watching how he reacted to all of Harry’s eccentricities. Harry isn’t a guy who trusts other people, and Connelly kept Harry hammered enough throughout the book that he was forced to trust a lot of people this time around. I hope we get to see more of Chu.
The Triad angle in the plot interested me, and there was some solid history given throughout the story that I was familiar with from my own interests. However, the history almost got dropped along the way, although the Triad threat remained. I would have liked to learn more, but I didn’t have to in order to enjoy the book.
When Madeline goes missing in Hong Kong where she lives and Harry receives a video of her tied up, the book made a big jump from a Bosch investigation to almost an international thriller hero. Harry doesn’t want to trust the Hong Kong police, so he allies himself with his ex-wife and a Chinese man named Sun Yee (whose fate reader still do not know; maybe that will be revealed in a subsequent book?). The story echoes the Liam Neeson movie Taken in a lot of ways, but I don’t think that was deliberate. The people trafficking in those areas move pretty much the same, so similarities cropped up.
The thing that bothered me most was the almost casual way Bosch dropped bodies everywhere. That’s just not his style. Given the plot, his actions were warranted and even necessary, but that’s just not a Bosch book.
I did enjoy seeing Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half-brother and the other major character currently playing in Connelly’s worlds, in a cameo. I thought it was fun and well done. However, having him brought in like that, dealing with the Hong Kong detectives, leaned into the rather weak ending that comes along. As it turns out, the murder is much simpler and much closer to home than Hong Kong and the Triad. Those were all false leads that circumstantially bumped up the plot stakes. That kind of dissatisfied to a degree, because it was something Bosch should have tumbled to earlier, in my opinion.
Overall the writing was a little weak this time. Bosch would do something or say something, and Connelly felt compelled to interpret that for the reader for some reason. In a book I would have skipped those sections and been through much more quickly. With an audiobook, you get it all and sometimes I wanted to cringe.
This is definitely one of those books Bosch fans have to read, and when they do, they’ll be wondering what’s going to happen next. Like me.