Robert Ruen is an Oakland policeman who is still in love with his mysterious Vietnamese ex-wife, Suzy. When he finds out that her new husband, Sonny, brutally injured her he goes to rough him up in return. When Suzy disappears Sonny contacts Robert and blackmails him into searching for her. He finds out a lot more than he bargains for, but he also uncovers more questions that need answers.
First off, Dragonfish by Vu Tran is a good book. That being said, it wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. I’ve been trying to find another book that scratches the itch left behind after reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson. I was hoping Dragonfish would alleviate this craving a little. The inner flap promises a suspenseful noir novel, but after reading it I am a little disappointed at the “suspenseful” part.
There is no sense of urgency in Dragonfish. I think this is because most of the novel contains stories being retold or remembered. Most of the action happens in the past. We are told about events by other characters or see things through flashbacks. Other times important points are told through letters recounting what happened years ago. Very little actually happens in the present. I was expecting a crime mystery to unfold, but it feels like a lot of backtracking. The novel is less about crime and more about learning who Suzy is than anything else.
I found Suzy to be a very interesting character so learning about her is not a bad thing at all. The other characters are a little flat though. We see everything through Robert’s eyes and he is lacking character depth. For as many memories as he recounts to the reader I didn’t feel any real connection to him. The supporting characters are quite good for the most part. I want to know more about them, but maybe it is the mystery of them that I find most alluring.
I liked the book, but I didn’t love it. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it was an enjoyable read. It was well written and quite good for a debut novel. I will probably keep an eye on Vu Tran in the future.