Mark Terry

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Stealing The Dragon by Tim Maleeny--A Review

March 4, 2007

Stealing The Dragon

by Tim Maleeny

Midnight Ink/Llewellyn Worldwide

Trade paperback. $14.95

ISBN: 978-0-7387-0997-0

STEALING THE DRAGON begins with an exciting flashback, P.I. Cape Weathers in a fight to the death and his miraculous and bloody rescue by his friend, Sally.

The book then jumps to the hold of a cargo ship, where Chinese refugees are smuggled on board. One of the refugees, aware that the crew of the ship is mistreating them and may kill them, takes matters into her own hands. In the next scene we witness the crewless cargo ship going aground on Alcatraz, the majority of the crew murdered and the refugees unwilling to say what has happened.

Cape Weathers is visited by his cop friend, Beau, who suggests that the case is being turned over to the Feds and sooner or later they're going to pay a visit to Cape's friend Sally, who at some level would be a prime suspect in this killing. Beau hints that it would be a lot better if Cape found her.

Easier said than done. STEALING THE DRAGON then begins to follow two timelines and storylines. One is Cape's hunt for Sally, who runs a martial arts studio in San Francisco's Chinatown, and when that fails, his investigation into the cargo ship massacre by way of various political and/or criminal leaders in the Chinese community.

The second timeline, and to me, the most interesting, is made up of flashbacks to Sally's childhood. The daughter of an American serviceman and a Japanese woman, she was orphaned at the age of five and "sold" to a Triad school in Hong Kong. The Triads are fairly complex Chinese organized crime families that go back hundreds of years. Raised within a version of a Shao Lin monastary, Sally chooses a particular path that makes her an assassin, although one eventually at odds with the family running the Triad. The dragon in question (at least the literal version, not the metaphorical version) in the title is a legendary statue of a dragon that belongs to the Triad and which is believed to provide luck and victory in all battles to whoever possesses. And it's been stolen. Was Sally the thief? One thing is certain--members of the Triad will kill anyone who stands in their way to get it back.

STEALING THE DRAGON is a terrific debut novel on at least two levels--as a PI novel and as an exotic martial arts novel. I don't think you would have to be a martial arts afficionado (like I am) to enjoy this novel. Sally's story is compelling on a lot of other levels and she's a very complex, fascinating character; perhaps more complex and fascinating than Cape Weathers and I suspect Tim Maleeny will have problems balancing the two in future novels. It's a fine tradition, though: Spenser and Hawk; Myron Bolitar and Win; Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. And now, Cape Weathers and Sally. Yeah, it's that good.


Mark Terry


Blogger spyscribbler said...

One thing I found fascinating about it is that I'm guessing it will appeal to many different audiences, without disappointing any of them. Those who like hard mysteries, those who like the martial arts (me, too!), and women and men alike.

I found Sally's story the most interesting, too.

Part of what made this novel so interesting to me is the form, with the two present story and backstory (is that what you'd call it, even if it's so fully developed?) running concurrently. It seems that this can only be done in this first one. I'm really curious to know what he does with his second book.

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