Book Review: 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly

Title: 9 Dragons

Author: Michael Connelly

Blurb: Fortune Liquors is a small shop in a tough South L.A. neighborhood, a store Bosch has known for years. The murder of John Li, the store’s owner, hits Bosch hard, and he promises Li’s family that he’ll find the killer.

The world Bosch steps into next is unknown territory. He brings in a detective from the Asian Gang Unit for help with translation–not just of languages but also of the cultural norms and expectations that guided Li’s life. He uncovers a link to a Hong Kong triad, a lethal and far-reaching crime ring that follows many immigrants to their new lives in the U.S.

And instantly his world explodes. The one good thing in Bosch’s life, the person he holds most dear, is taken from him and Bosch travels to Hong Kong in an all-or-nothing bid to regain what he’s lost. In a place known as Nine Dragons, as the city’s Hungry Ghosts festival burns around him, Bosch puts aside everything he knows and risks everything he has in a desperate bid to outmatch the triad’s ferocity.Featuring ebook bonus materials including an in-depth interview with the author about writing “Nine Dragons,” photos from his exciting travels while writing the book, and a link to an online promotional video.

My Thoughts

Long before I actually read this book, I’d heard that it was considered the only real “dud” in the Harry Bosch series. But since I’m a stickler for reading books in series order, I decided to give it a shot anyway instead of just skipping it.

Now, having read it, I can honestly confirm…that everyone else was right. This book really is the series dud.

That’s not to say it’s absolutely terrible. It isn’t. But compared to the typical quality of Bosch novels that I’ve come to expect from Michael Connelly, this one does fall pretty short of the bar.

This book really has two problems that prevent it from meeting the overall series standard: the plot line abroad and the characterization of Harry Bosch.

Up until this book, Harry’s characterization has been very consistent, showing some growth and development across the many books of the series but essentially remaining the same at its core. But this book, for some reason, throws all that way, and has Harry act very out of character, particularly in the second half of the book. He makes rookie mistakes, he acts far too impulsively, and he doesn’t seem to think much of anything through.

While the book tries to explain all this away using the abduction of Harry’s daughter, I just don’t think it quite works. If anything, Harry is the sort of person who would bring out his best to save his daughter—not his worst—so to have him basically throw all his accumulated detective skills in the garbage I feel betrays his character.

The somewhat “wonky” plot doesn’t help matters. Usually, Bosch novels are very tightly plotted, with a couple different intertwined plot threads running concurrently that both keep pushing the pace along from beginning to end. But in this book, the whole sequence where Harry goes to Hong Kong in search of his daughter just seems to put the brakes on the main mystery arc, and I found that rather irritating because I thought the murder mystery was far more interesting than the daughter abduction story.

I admit, however, that my feelings on the matter largely have to do with the fact that I prefer mystery to thriller, and the abduction arc falls more in line with the international spy thriller genre than it does the classic detective story.

Anyway, in the end, this book just didn’t work for me nearly as much as the average Bosch book. As a consequence, I can’t in good conscience give the book my usual four-star rating.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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[…] fresh off the mediocre 9 Dragons, this installment of the Harry Bosch series was a breath of fresh air. Harry was back in good form, […]