9 Dragons by Michael Connelly

November 13, 2009

9 dragons Plot summary (with spoilers): LAPD detective Harry Bosch is back in action, and this time it’s personal. While investigating the murder of an elderly Chinese liquor store owner in L.A., Bosch picks up a suspect who reputedly has links to a triad — some kind of ancient Chinese gang. The cops don’t have any real evidence on the suspect Chang yet, but they’re scrambling to come up with something so they can charge and hold him. While this is going on Bosch, receives a threatening phone call, warning him to back off Chang or he’ll be sorry. A short time later, Bosch receives a video via his cell phone. It shows his 13-year-old daughter Maddie being held hostage — all the way in Hong Kong where she lives with mother Eleanor Wish.

Bosch drops everything to go to Hong Kong and try to track down his daughter. Arriving with only a backpack, a wad of cash, and an Imprinted jump drive with the video on it, he receives help from Eleanor and a man named Sun, who is a security guard (and more) at the casino where Eleanor works. The three work with clues obtained from forensic evaluation of the kidnapping video to try to narrow down Maddie’s location in Kowloon (translation: “9 dragons”). Despite some devastating turns, Bosch does manage to recover Eleanor.

Returning to L.A. a mere 36 hours after leaving, Bosch once again takes up the liquor store killing. His partner Ferras and an officer named Chu from the Asian Gangs Unit have continued working on the case, but haven’t been able to turn up anything new. Fortunately, Bosch sent a shell casing from the scene to undergo some kind of newfangled technique to lift fingerprints. The technique worked, giving Bosch a name of a registered gun owner.

From there, Bosch and Chu go to interview the new suspect, who, though innocent, provides the necessary breakthrough that allows Bosch to crack the case.

Liked:

  • It was interesting to see the action move out of the usual L.A.-Las Vegas locales for a while. I didn’t particularly like the details of the Hong Kong trip (see below), but it was cool that Connelly at least tried to shake things up.
  • The action was pretty much nonstop in this one. There were none of the boring love scenes that I’ve criticized Connelly about in the past, which was certainly refreshing. Every scene served to advance the plot forward and keep things flowing.
  • I liked the twist about Eleanor. Her death was the last thing I expected, and I liked how it came right at the beginning of the investigation instead of a clichéd scene ending with Maddie’s rescue. I also like that it was sudden, not giving Bosch a chance to say goodbye. That will haunt him for sure!

Disliked:

  • I absolutely hated how easy it was for Bosch to figure out where Maddie was in Hong Kong. Are you kidding me? He was able to narrow down the exact building within an hour of landing in the city? Gimme a break. Yes, I suspended my disbelief and just rolled with it, but WTF??? It took a lot for me to get past that one.
  • I didn’t like how every single hunch Bosch had in Hong Kong paid off. I mean, these guys had very little to go on, and yet managed to guess right every step of the way and find Maddie with relative ease. I mean seriously, it was so easy that I began to wonder what the point was.
  • So if the kidnapping was a ruse, what happened to Quick and his family? Did the shipping company guy kill them all just to take Maddie for real? Maybe Bosch made the connection, but I sure didn’t.
  • And who was the leak in the LAPD? Was that ever uncovered? Bosch made such a big deal out of that during the course of the entire novel that I was sure there would be some climactic scene where he discovered who was selling him out. Was there no leak after all? Everything was just a coincidence? Is that what I’m supposed to take from the conclusion?
  • So the killer(s) were the liquor store owner’s own “oppressed” children? Meh, that explanation was a bit thin. Yeah, it fit with the way Connelly constructed the crime, of course, but it just felt like a cop-out way to wrap up the mystery.
  • And why would Maddie fake her own kidnapping just to be able to live in L.A. with Bosch? That seemed like such an extreme step. Do 13-year-olds really do things like that? A rational discussion with her parents was completely out of the question? Meh again.

Rating:
9 Dragons by Michael Connelly was not a bad entry in the Harry Bosch series, but it wasn’t the best either. The book kept my interest from beginning to end, so in that respect, I liked it. But as I was reading and after I finished, the inconsistencies in the plot and the very thin explanations behind character motives kept nagging at me, preventing a more thorough enjoyment. I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

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