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Thursday, 12 November 2009
By Michael Connelly
“Harry Bosch is back” - four words that will get a queue of fans forming outside the bookshops. But is there enough in “Nine Dragons” to draw in the new reader?
The answer is “yes”. Anyone reading this as a standalone novel, and their first introduction to the cast of Michael Connelly’s world, will find more than enough excitement and mystery to carry them through.
What starts out as almost a routine murder investigation (albeit one that throws echoes back from Harry’s earlier days) becomes complicated and deadly as the Triads get involved, Harry’s daughter’s life is placed in jeopardy, and Harry is forced to operate outside the strict boundaries of the law. Mysteries baffle, heads roll, blood flows, the plot twists back on itself like a dragon in a Chinese New Year celebration, and the end of the novel finds Bosch looking at a life that has changed considerably.
Connelly has been writing about Bosch for almost twenty years, and the character ages at the same rate as the author; the Harry of “Nine Dragons” has grown older, but perhaps little wiser, since his debut in 1992’s “The Black Echo”. In this latest novel, we see Harry as a less sympathetic character than before. His obsession with “the mission” puts him at odds with his co-workers from the outset, and the threat to his daughter magnifies his sense of purpose (and consequent disregard for the feelings of others) to the point where the reader can see him for what he is; not a knight in shining armour, but a flawed, complex human being.
The Harry-verse is populated by recurring characters and, indeed, characters who have their own separate literary existence in which Bosch may occasionally make a guest appearance. In one Connelly novel the hero even proves to be on nodding acquaintanceship with Elvis Cole, a private detective created by a completely different author. So, for the seasoned Bosch reader, there is the added delight of seeing old friends come and go. The delight for the new reader will, of course, be when they delve into the back catalogue and catch up on the back stories, as they undoubtedly will after reading “Nine Dragons”.
Reviewed by Mike Deller