NINE DRAGONS is the fourteenth Harry Bosch novel – but it was my first. Since then, I’ve read – and re-read, in most cases – the entirety of Michael Connelly’s output. This week, I decided to go back and try to identify why NINE DRAGONS ensnared me. Because there’s no doubt: Connelly is firmly established as one of my favourite writers; and his Bosch series is unrivalled. In my mind, it’s damn near unbeatable.
There is no elongated build-up; no unwieldy setup. NINE DRAGONS begins with Bosch and his new partner, Ignacio Ferras, handed a fresh case; the murder of a convenience store clerk. The victim is Chinese, and before long the detectives discover a Triad connection. Evidently, the store owner paid off a Triad enforcer for ‘protection’ every month; this, in the midst of the economic downturn, meant the store was barely breaking even. The connotation seem clear: the store owner stopped paying, and he was executed as punishment. Of course, this being a Michael Connelly novel, there’s more to the case than what is on the surface. There is no one better at leading readers one way, then shifting momentum and propelling them another. His whodunits have twists like a Mobius band.
The Triad connection means this case is bigger than anything Harry has ever faced. The criminal organization is widespread; a global machine with impossible reach. So thirteen year old Madeline Bosch, who lives with her mother in Hong Kong, is an easy target. Their message to Bosch is clear: keep out of Triad business. But the LA detective’s never been one to play by other people’s rules. He changes the game, and heads to Hong Kong, to take on his daughter’s kidnappers directly…
As far as Bosch novels go, NINE DRAGONS is a solid entry in the series. Few of the books – besides THE OVERLOOK – possess the same thrust; even fewer raise the stakes as significantly. But in throwing Madeline’s life on the line, NINE DRAGONS becomes more thriller than whodunit; by no means a bad thing, but it does make the novel less representative of Connelly’s usual fare. As an entry into the series, it’s fantastic; its plot allows introductions to recurring characters, including Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) and sets up a new phase in Bosch’s life, with his daughter now playing a more integral role. The final twist – one of Connelly’s trademarks – is jarring, but for all the right reasons. This is an ending that sticks and twists.
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 21-Oct-2009
Country of Publication: Australia