Nine Dragons (Connelly) and Doors Open (Rankin)

Many of us go through reading highs or lows, in which every book seems to be spot-on or the opposite. I've been going through a low recently – starting and putting down three books after struggling to maintain interest in the one before that. To break the spell I went out and paid for the new Michael Connelly, Nine Dragons, in hardback. I read it this week, followed by Ian Rankin's Doors Open (kindly sent to me by Pat of Mysterious Yarns, who reviewed it for Euro Crime). Although I did read both these books from beginning to end, I can't summon up enough enthusiasm to write a proper review of them, so will just make a few remarks here.

Nine Dragons is a typical Michael Connelly – he is a superb author at the top of his game, deeply embedded in his main character (Harry Bosch), his mission (to stand up for the dead) and his world (LA, with whom Connelly and Bosch are tightly integrated). If you like Connelly's novels, you'll like this one, it is well up to standard. As well as a tight plot with a twist, Bosch is taken out of LA for 39 hours in the middle of the book, when most of the (very fast and furious) action happens. It's interesting to read about Harry when he's a fish out of water; we see him much more objectively, as rather an objectionable character in this part of the book, as his driven, obsessive and blinkered personality dominate everything and everyone, sometimes to destructive effect. One very much has the sense in Nine Dragons, as in The Scarecrow before it, that the author is setting the scene for what will happen after Bosch's imminent mandatory retirement from the LAPD. By the end of Nine Dragons, a couple of characters have been removed from the scene so that Bosch, McEvoy (an ex-journalist), Rachel Walling (FBI agent) and Mickey Haller (the "Lincoln lawyer" who has more than one connection to Bosch's personal life) can form some kind of partnership….well, that's my theory.

Doors Open by Ian Rankin is a heist story about an art theft. It's mildly diverting, particularly in the second half after the heist actually takes place (I usually find the planning stages of these crime "capers" rather tedious). For me, the motivation of the "criminals" is always unconvincing, as is the portrait of the gang boss (cloned from Big Ger of the Rebus series). Rebus himself is alluded to, not by name, as an aside in the middle of the book. There's lots of neat little touches in this novel, particularly many nods to the author's knowledge of art and music, but it doesn't add up to much of a whole. It passes the time in a pleasant enough fashion but I can't say that I was gripped by it. The behaviour of the characters became less and less likely, a few "cheats" are thrown in (the reader not being told about certain events), and the wrap-up plus outcome for the "gang" was somewhat flat, silly even.