Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nine Dragons: Michael Connelly takes on Hong Kong

In Nine Dragons, Michael Connelly's latest, detective Harry Bosch, a recurring character in Connelly's novels, is assigned to investigate a liquor store shooting, a case that kicks of a series of events that eventually takes Bosch from Los Angeles to Hong Kong.   Bosch had previously encountered the victim, the store's owner, about 12 years previously.  Bosch has been carrying a matchbook from this same liquor store since that time.  On the inside cover of the matchbook is the phrase, "Happy is the man who finds refuge in himself," but he carries it because it holds memories of a kindness the murder victim had shown him at that earlier time.

This previous encounter gives Bosch a personal stake in the outcome, but as the plot progresses and expands the stakes become much higher and  the geographical scope of the book broadens to include Hong Kong.  I don't want to spoil any of the several plot twists and surprises by explaining how this happens.  Bosch is always an interesting and highly individualized character, although some of Connelly's earlier books, such as The Narrows and City of Bones, have probably done more to paint his portrait.  Nine Dragons does contain some important additions to that character development.

Connelly's prose, to me, has two main virtues:  it combines clear, methodical exposition (often mirroring the methodical thought processes of the main detective character) with an amazing amount of dramatic tension.  That tension is not created by rushed or breathless prose, but by the careful adding of new elements to an intriguing mystery which involves the main character (and hence the reader) in an intensely personal way.  The writing and Harry's new adventures in Hong Kong, particularly in some of the seedier neighborhoods, make Nine Dragons one mystery that shouldn't be missed.

Nine Dragons is $9.99 for the Kindle, and lists for $27.99 for the print edition.

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