Review: Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly

9 DragonsNINE 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.

3 Stars Good

ISBN: 9781742371542
Format: Paperback
Pages: 416
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 21-Oct-2009
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

Burning RoomWhen Orlando Merced succumbs to complications from a bullet wound suffered almost a decade ago, Detective Harry Bosch and his new rookie partner, Lucia Soto, of the LAPD’s cold cases unit, are tasked with the investigation. Utilizing Bosch’s decades of experience, and Soto’s impressive zeal, the two unearth new evidence that suggests this wasn’t a random hit; this was an assassination attempt. But was Merced, a musician, the intended target? And if he wasn’t, then who was?

Over recent years, each new instalment in the Harry Bosch series has brought with it excitement and trepidation. Bosch’s career with the LAPD is winding down: enforced retirement beckons. Bosch’s mission, and his mantra – “everybody counts or nobody counts” – has defined his existence for so long; what will he become without the badge to fulfil his purpose? More importantly for readers, what becomes of this long-established series, not totalling a remarkable 17 novels?  Connelly lays the foundation for a prospective spin-off with the introduction of Lucia Soto, who is so much more than a gender-switched Harry Bosch facsimile.

Much of THE BURNING ROOM is dedicated to her personal mission, and the driving force behind her decision to sign up for the LAPD and work cold cases: the Bonnie Brae fire more than twenty years ago, deemed an unsolved arson job that resulted in the deaths of nine people, most of whom were children. Rather than dissuade her from working the case, Bosch aids her. Connelly deftly flicks between both investigations, building momentum in these dual narratives, which conclude in typical Connelly fashion: not as we expect.

There are fleeting mentions of Bosch’s supporting cast: his daughter’s continuing interest in policing remains an interesting plot point, if only because it seems far too derivative of Connelly to reignite the series with Bosch’s daughter playing as the protagonist, which begs the question: where is this particular thread leading? Several other characters from the Bosch canon make an appearance, but they’re not merely salutes to veteran readers: each character plays a vital role in the narrative’s progression.

THE BURNING ROOM is a refined police procedural, and if this is Bosch’s swansong in the LAPD, it’s a fine note to depart on: bittersweet, which surmises his career with the department, and how Michael Connelly’s legion of fans will feel when Bosch’s retirement is official.

Review: The Overlook by Michael Connelly

the-overlookTHE OVERLOOK began its existence as a sixteen-part narrative published in The New York Times Magazine, and it’s evident from the start that this is a very different Harry Bosch novel.

Despite the expansions and connective tissue added for its mass market release, THE OVERLOOK reflects its inaugural audience; it’s lean, it’s fast and it lacks much of the subtlety
Michael Connelly’s work is lauded for. Instead, it reads like an episode of 24, with a real focus on plot rather than rich characterization. But just because it doesn’t read like a traditional Bosch novel doesn’t make it unworthy of its place within the acclaimed series. If anything, it’s rather delightful seeing Connelly work different muscles using the same old characters, paring down on the facets of his writing that he’s renowned for. The trademark twists and turns are here; they’re just rapid-fire, bang-bang-bang, one after the other; relentless. This makes sense, given the gravity of the case Bosch is working, which has catastrophic implications for the entire city. Connelly smartly throws his protagonist into a situation we’ve not seen him face before, thereby validating the pace of the tale. It reads fast because Bosch needs to be fast to succeed.

As the successor to the masterpiece ECHO PARK, THE OVERLOOK doesn’t reach those heights. What we’ve got here is Michael Connelly stripped down; raw. This isn’t the best Bosch novel – not by a long shot – but in terms of pure entertainment, it ranks right up there.