Michael Connelly writes fast-paced best-sellers that critics praise for their sharp characterizations and fluid storytelling. The appearance of a third Connelly title in a year would be excellent news if Nine Dragons, his latest offering, didn't read like it had been scribbled during a red-eye from Los Angeles to Hong Kong, the two cities where the slapdash action unfolds.
Back to solve another crime is crabby detective Hieronymus ''Harry'' Bosch, the wonderful pain in the LAPD's ass Connelly introduced in 1992's The Black Echo. Bosch is always in trouble with his colleagues, sometimes with the bottle, and usually with some diabolical foe as well. In this novel, however, Connelly seems intent on paving the way for an exploration of Bosch's softer side. But is this what makes him interesting?
The Chinese-American owner of an L.A. liquor store has been shot and killed, presumably by a member of a secret Asian crime society. Bosch is just beginning his investigation when his 13-year-old daughter, Madeline, who lives in Hong Kong with her mother, suddenly vanishes. The detective is dead sure there's a connection: ''He knew one day it would come to this, that the darkness would find her and that she would be used to get to him. That day was now.''
What a self-important egomaniac. Bosch jumps on a flight to Hong Kong, where he picks some locks and shoots some bad guys, while Connelly dispatches an important character so randomly that you wonder whom he wouldn't kill to energize a fundamentally inert narrative. Then he kills somebody else off. James Patterson long ago proved that you can write three thrillers in a year, but even Michael Connelly can't write three good ones. C–