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Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


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Maleeny, Tim: Stealing the Dragon

  Amazon  

4 stars

Tim Maleeny's Stealing the Dragon is the first in a new series featuring private detective Cape Weathers. In this outing, a ship filled with refugees being smuggled into the states from Fuzhou Province in China has run aground on the island of Alcatraz. The crew of the boat are found murdered, but the refugees didn't do it: the carnage on board is clearly the work of highly skilled assassin. Since Cape happens to know just such an assassin, and she happens to have gone missing, he's a little worried that she might be in trouble. Cape's investigation into the refugee ship murders takes him into the underbelly of San Francisco's Chinatown and involves him in the ancient traditions of a secret Chinese organization and the messy business of the city's upcoming mayoral election.

Stealing the Dragon reads almost like two different books sewn together. There are the chapters featuring Cape, who is, frankly, fairly mundane: a likable enough PI who under-dresses and annoys the local police and the Feds with his wise-cracking antics. But Cape is informally partnered with Sally Mei, the aforementioned assassin, who spends her time teaching martial arts and watching Cape's back when she's not killing people. Much of the book focuses on Sally's backstory, her training from the age of five with the Triad, her first forays into murder. These sections of the book are both unusual and very well done. Sally is extremely competent and endowed with a conscience, and thus a very compelling character. The two parts of the book eventually meet--the story of the refugees is of course bound to Sally's story. Still, the connection between Sally and Cape, the juxtaposition of their respective styles, is jarring. The effect is like watching a Shakespearean actor perform alongside some Tiger Beat pinup,* say, or listening to a duet by Pavarotti and Jimmy Buffett. One wonders how Sally can possibly have become hooked up with Cape.

Doubtless that question will be answered eventually in a subsequent Cape Weathers installment. The second book in the series, Beating the Babushka, was released in October of 2007.

* For precisely that effect--impressive, in this context--see Love and Death on Long Island, starring John Hurt and Jason Priestley.

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