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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 15 January 2010
I've been a fan of Michael Connelly's police procedurals and his hero Harry Bosch for a long, long time, but I found myself deeply disappointed with Nine Dragons. The book starts on familiar ground with a killing in South LA. When the investigation reveals Triad involvement, and Bosch gets a message that his daughter is kidnapped, we are asked to accept our hero transforming from a careful, experienced investigator into a rampant madman, and the plot becomes a breakneck, episodic quest, as if Connelly was trying to outdo Dan Brown at his worst. Travelling half-way around the world, Bosch, tripping over clues and bodies, is able to track down the kidnappers in a way and a time-frame that defies belief. Having created a body count that approaches double figures whilst achieving his objective in under twenty four hours, we are asked to believe that an experienced police officer would choose to leave Hong Kong clandestinely, destroying evidence without any regard to the investigation that must inevitably follow. And to believe that all this mayhem has happened so fast that he is allowed to board (and leave) his return plane without question.

When the HK police arrive a few days later in LA demanding answers, Connelly tries to convince his readers that a few lawyerly words from Micky Haller and the threat of a negative newspaper article will be enough to send them packing. Sorry, I really do not buy that. Nor do I buy a character that can be motivated on the one hand to commit such deeds to save a thirteen year old daughter, then forget that he has to pick her up from a psychological examination less than a week later. I'm equally unconvinced by a hero who is old enough to recollect his Vietnam service, yet is able to work non-stop for 36 hours (or more), then take a 15 hr flight from LA to HK without sleeping, conduct 18 hours(or whatever) of mayhem in HK and only notice that he's hungry and possibly might look a little dishevelled when he gets to HK airport for his return flight.

I'm still trying to figure out how the hitherto slick, taut, Connelly machine allowed a sloppy, unbelievable story and a main character with such massively inconsistent behaviour to appear in print. I can only conclude that Connelly is desperate to create a script for an action movie.
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on 4 October 2009
I've been counting down the days until the appearance of this latest instalment in the Harry Bosch series from one of the biggest guns in the genre, Michael Connelly. I was halfway through `City of Lies' by R J Ellory when Connelly came-a-calling and he's one of the few writers for whom I'd have no question in laying down another author's work to finish later. Such was the case here; few crime writers are as dependable as Michael Connelly at providing a top-class read; he very rarely disappoints.

In `Nine Dragons', LAPD detective Harry Bosch and his partner Ignacio Ferras cover for another unit by investigating the shooting of an elderly Chinese store owner in a predominantly black neighbourhood. Bosch however reads the clues and susses out that there's a triad angle (sorry!) to the killing. Once again Ferras is a mostly ineffectual presence and Bosch acquires a new de facto partner for the case - David Chu from the force's Asian Gang Unit.

After arresting a triad extortionist there appear to be leaks in the investigation and Bosch is advised by unknown persons to back off from the case. Then he's knocked sideways when a video is sent to his cell phone; his daughter Madeline has been abducted in Hong Kong where she lives with her mother, and Bosch's ex-wife, Eleanor Wish. The biggest section of the book involves Bosch flying to Hong Kong (specifically Kowloon) to get her back. Here he steps into a strange world of bizarre customs where a sinister omnipotent force (the triads) holds sway.

This section has obvious parallels with the recent thriller movie `Taken' starring Liam Neeson. I don't wish to underline and belabour the similarities, but those who've seen the movie will take my point.

There are less internal politics in 'Nine Dragons': Bosch both gets on well (or at least as well as Harry ever gets on with ANYONE!) and respects his immediate boss Lieutenant Gandle, and the feeling is mutual. He's finally appreciated - long gone are the days where Bosch was a loose cannon within LAPD, railing against the superiors whom he held in utter contempt.

Harry Bosch is a magnetic presence within the pages of a novel; he has very view quirks, other than his obsessive love of jazz and while he has a past-life killing tunnel rats in Vietnam, Connelly never overplays this. Although he's psychologically damaged, he's a straight-shooting, dependable, no-nonsense character who always likes to keep an investigation moving, while his acute mind often keeps him a step ahead of everyone else. He does get things wrong at times - he is human after all - but he usually comes good in the end. He doesn't do humour, and there's not much place for sentimentality in his life. Here he is accused of racism at one point, but he quickly slaps this down and admonishes his accuser.

`Nine Dragons', delivers a good double whammy twist ending and there's also a nice appearance by an old friend that all adds to the enjoyment. However, it follows hot on the heels of his last novel `The Scarecrow' and occasionally shows some signs of hasty writing; there are a few passages where there are repetitions of common words in close proximity when there are perfectly adequate synonyms available. The plot is also a little underdeveloped in places.

Connelly's prose is as always spare and functional; above all else he's a master story-teller, rather than a writing stylist. Yet he is capable of being poetic at times, and the juxtaposition of these passages next to the pragmatic prose makes them hit home harder.

'Nine Dragons' is a very good read, but for me it doesn't resonate with the same power as, say `The Last Coyote' or `Lost Light' or ........... (insert your own favourite Bosch novel here). I've knocked my rating down a star, because Connelly has set the bar so high, but I imagine `Nine Dragons' will satisfy most fans of the writer, and do a lot more than that for others.
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"Nine Dragons [Audio Book] (Audio CD)" features Michael Brandon reading "Nine Dragons." The novel is, I believe, the 14th in Michael Connelly's best-selling Harry Bosch series of mystery novels; that is, if you don't count in The Brass Verdict, a recent bestselling Mickey Haller-Harry Bosch novel. The series, Los Angeles-set police procedurals, looks at life on the "noir" side; Connelly is a former journalist, a crime beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, who certainly earned his spurs in murder while earning his daily bread. His recent standalones,The Scarecrow "Brass Verdict," and The Lincoln Lawyer, have all been #1 New York Times Bestsellers;Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers, a non-fiction collection of his journalism, was also a New York Times bestseller, as most of his previous standalones have been, too.

The item at hand opens as John Li, owner of Fortune Liquors, a small shop in a tough South LA neighborhood, is found murdered in an apparent burglary gone wrong. LA Police Detective Bosch has known shop and owner since the famous LA riots; since then, he's carried one of its matchbooks, whose motto "Happy is the man who finds refuge in himself," has guided him through some tough times. He is personally shaken by the crime, and promises the family of the murdered man that he will find the victim's killer. Soon, he brings in a Chinese-speaking detective from the force's Asian Gang Unit; signs begin to point to one of the Hong Kong based triads: historic, lethal crime rings that have followed their countrymen to new lives in the States, as the mafia followed its Italian countrymen. The Hong Kong connection proves unfortunate, as the person in the world most important to Bosch, who resides in HK, suddenly disappears. And Bosch is immediately on the red eye over there; he intends to begin his search in Kowloon, whose name translates to "Nine Dragons;" it's a nearby, largely Chinese suburb of HK's.

Connelly is a wonderful writer, my favorite among American mystery authors, and I've read all his books save "Scarecrow." (Like many other readers, I imagine, I prefer his series works to his standalones: like many other writers, his mysteries seem more powerful if they are filtered through the sensibilities of his detective protagonist.) At any rate, Connelly's plots are dynamic; furthermore, they are tight, complex, and resonant. His dialog snaps, his narrative writing is terse and witty. He explicates his love of jazz as he goes. And his descriptive writing: well, it's heartfelt, written by a man in love with a dynamic city, and it's so precise that a stranger could find his way around LA with a few of his books as guides. And as for that magical, dynamic port city, Hong Kong; when I finished this book, I thought I, who'd never been there, might find my way around.

Mind you, I did have a couple of problems with "Nine Dragons." Bosch seems to have become some sort of super detective here, whose instincts lead him unerringly to the solution of crimes; in that respect, it's not as much fun as say, Trunk Music, a tour de force in which Connelly offers us three solutions to the same crime, and we believe each, in its turn. Bosch seems also to have turned a good bit more lethal than he's ever been before: there's a high body count here, a lot of beat-em-up, shoot-em-up ultra-violence that I'm not accustomed to in Connelly's work, which I don't think a "noir" necessarily requires. In fact, substitute another magical port city, Paris, for Hong Kong, and there's a strong resemblance, in more ways than one, to Liam Neeson's recent movie Taken [DVD] [2008] , in which the actor seems to karate chop his way through the French-speaking city's population. Never mind, I still loved "Nine Dragons;" and with that warning about ultra-violence, recommend it highly.
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on 20 November 2009
Harry Bosch gets involved in a liquor store shooting where the chinese owner is killed and his search leads him to a bagman for a triad, one of China's many gangs. Then he receives word that his daughter has been kidnapped and he charges off to Hong Kong to set her free.

First of all, the book is really two stories. The police procedural, which takes up the first 170 pages and the final 70 pages, and a Taken-like thriller in the middle 120 pages. The first 170 pages are dreary and take a long while to set up the story with nothing much happening. Connelly finds 5th gear though in Part 2 when Harry lands in Hong Kong and things start moving. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say Harry gets his daughter back, and this was the best part of the book. Not as bloody or fun as the Liam Neeson film Taken but similar and enjoyable nonetheless.

What detracted from the book for me were the revelations in the final 70 pages of the book. I won't mention them here but it's here we find the shooting and the kidnapping are separate making for two different unconnected storylines. Then the red herrings and coincidences really mount up leading to an ending that is just so utterly laughable it trivialised the entire book and the thriller style story. Essentially Connelly seems to have lost the plot entirely with this book and ended up writing a complete mess that barely makes sense and barely comes together in the end.

That said it was enjoyable for the most part and was a quick read (2 days) but Connelly's style seems a bit simplistic while the clever plot devices he used in previous good books like "Lincoln Lawyer" and "Echo Park" seemed overplayed and I can totally understand readers' reactions to "Nine Dragons" as utilising one too many tricks. You get the feeling it was a rush job from start to finish and seeing as this is his third book in a year I'd say that's accurate. The least engaging of the three this year anyway, I'd say for completists only. Most people reading this will be put off from reading a usually brilliant writer so I'd suggest a better Harry Bosch book like "Echo Park".
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on 12 November 2015
Not his best book, the plot was fairly unbelievable in places. The author seems to be less confident when his characters are from overseas and his understanding of international law is poor - a typically American attitude towards other countries. He should stick to his own turf. I'll take the next in the series as up to now they have been pretty good, but if the decline in believability continues it may be the last one I'll read.
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VINE VOICEon 26 October 2009
I'm a little unsure about how to rate this latest Harry Bosch story. On one hand you have lots of classic Harry Bosch moments, which should keep long time fans happy, and there's the change of environment which keep things interesting and fresh. However, there's also the worrying aspects of Connolly's recent books in evidence here, the plot which seems a little predictable at times, the recycling of previous books and the formulaic writing style.

Taking Harry off home turf and into Hong Kong provides the opportunity for some new challenges. He's also on emotionally unfamiliar ground. In previous novels his relationship with his daughter has been incidental, and it's now centre stage, driving the plot and shifting what at first appears to be a routine crime into another gear, and Harry's character into another dimension. Without wishing to give away the the story it's difficult to say too much, but it's here where plot and character are not always as solid as you might wish, and elements of each strain credibility at times - at least for this reader.

If I appear over critical it's because Connolly has set his standards so high. New readers should find this a satisfying tale, among the best that Crime fiction has to offer, and I would bet a fair number of those new readers will explore the earlier books, to find out more about Harry. However long term Bosch addicts, who view this as part of series may find that doubts intrude. For that reason it's 4 stars.
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on 3 October 2015
Big fan of Bosch but this was one of the weakest I've read. Been reading them in order and usually find them hard to put down but nine dragons I couldn't wait to finish. The story just became plain ridiculous and the less said about it the better.Even the writing style made me think it wasn't actually written by Connelly. Sorry Mr C but definitely one for the recycle bin.....looking forward to the next one though!
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on 9 November 2009
The setting is half in the US and half in Hong Kong. He shows us an americans superficial if geographically correct view of HK. If Italy is all 'Pasta and Mafia' then HK must be 'fried food and Triads'. He makes a serious mistake of saying that they speak Mandarin in HK and not Cantonese. Other than these criticisms it's entertaining, well constructed and well worth a read if you liked the Bosch character and have read some earlier ones.
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on 20 February 2015
I’m a Michael Connelly fan. I own a copy of just about all of his books. They are generally superior fare amongst the bestseller lists, but Nine Dragons, I felt, was one of his weaker offerings. The felt story rushed, with prose that was workmanlike and flat. Connelly seems to be eschewing the more procedural plot lines of his earlier work for thriller-based plots that I don't believe match his temperament. In Nine Dragons, Connelly exhibits the same voice that has enthralled readers of his work for years, and he shows a Harry Bosch who has lost none of the toughness and grit that have inhabited the best of the Bosch books. But here Bosch is thrust into situations that are unbelievable and demand too much coincidence for even the most dedicated reader of Connelly's works. Still, like a bad day at golf being better than a good day at the office, Nine Dragons is worth the read, even if it leaves the reader with a little bitter aftertaste
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on 9 June 2011
This is the ONLY Michael Connelly book that i have not enjoyed. I was looking forward to reading it as I love the Harry Bosch books but this was disappointing. It started off great but then just went downhill and I really struggled to finish it. Sorry Michael but this one was an epic fail.
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