Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly (R)

This is Michael Connelly's 15th book in his series about Harry Bosch.  Harry is a homicide detective in LA.  He lives for his job, and for his 13-year old daughter, Maddie, who lives with her mother in Hong Kong, and who he sees every couple of months for a few weeks.

As the book opens, Harry and his partner are assigned the next homicide.  It seems a routine shopkiller murder; the victim an elderly Chinese man who immigrated to this country with his family and opened a store, then expanded to a second one.  Harry and his partner soon discover though, that this killing isn't as routine as it seems.  The storeowner was paying a weekly tribute to one of the Chinese Triads, the organized crime gangs that operate in both China and the United States.  There is a good chance that this was a Triad killing, as the shopowner had told them he would stop paying due to lower sales.

Having identified the Triad operative who collected the tribute and is probably the killer, Harry and Chu, a policeman from the Asia Group Unit in the LA Police, start surveillance, hoping to find a way to make their case.  They are surprised when the suspect comes out with a large suitcase, obviously on his way to flee the jurisdiction.  Harry suspects that the man has been tipped off on the police investigation, something that could only occur from the inside.

To prevent the man's escape, he is arrested at the airport.  The plan is to hold him until evidence can be found, but then a new, startling episode occurs.  Harry gets a video on his cellphone.  It is footage of Maddie being held hostage in Hong Kong, and there is a message that Harry must back off on the suspect or she will be harmed.  Harry drops everything and flies to Hong Kong.  There, helped by his ex-wife and her new partner, a man who works in security, they race against time and the Triads to find Maddie before she is hurt.

Fans of the Harry Bosch series will not be disappointed.  I liked the first part which showed the routine workings of a murder investigation.  It showed the beaucracy and budget and political considerations that often hamper police work, and seems much more realistic than many books that portray everything falling into place almost magically.  The book changes tempo as Harry moves to Hong Kong.  The suspense rachets up with every new encounter, as the reader anxiously follows to see if Harry will be successful.  This book is recommended for mystery and thriller readers.

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