Saturday, January 02, 2010

9 Dragons

Michael Connelly's 9 Dragons was better than I hoped. I liked the early Bosch books, but I felt that got a bit samey over time. The subject matter (Chinese gangs in LA and Hong Kong) and the fact that my Mom gave me her copy convinced me to give it a shot. I ended up reading it in an evening. This speaks both to the engaging plot and the brevity.

The story is a definate strength of the book. It moves fast, even a touch too fast really. It lurches from plot development to plot development at such speed that there are few lulls that would lead you to take a break. On the downside, the speed sacrifices character and the full exploitation of the Chinese subject matter.

I was suprised that Bosch didn't seem as tired as I thought he would. Yes, he has the cliched relationship issues and the love of jazz records, but he fallible, often terribly so and he avoids screeching into Jack Bauer amoral superhero territory.

Still, I was hoping for a little more background on China. Rather than give us a feel for Hong Kong, we get a list of place names. The bad guys are conveniently strewn across the territory. The characters are also terribly thin.

There are, I think, at least two kinds of good crime novels. One is the thoughtful, and often lengthy study that mulls over the grey emotions, like regret and remorse. Then there are the sorts that get the pulse racing. They both serve a purpose. What I do dislike about the new thrillers is how efficient they have become. Nearly everything other than plot is cast aside in order to hurtle the reader down the track. It's a fun ride, but when its over, it is more often than not forgetable.

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