Chasing the Dragon (2004)

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ISBN: 0312324685
ISBN-13: 9780312324681
Published: 2004
Pages: 320
Publisher: Minotaur Books
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Dante Mancuso has had just about enough of working for "the company," a covert security operation that's sent him to foreign hotspots and left his conscience raging with regrets. So when a seductively distant young contact called "Anita Blonde" assigns him, in Domenic Stansberry's Chasing the Dragon, to return to his hometown of San Francisco, where his estranged father has died in his sleep and where he can help destroy a heroin-smuggling ring, Dante imagines it as an escape. Even though it means reconfronting suspicions he'd brought on himself seven years ago, when as an SFPD homicide cop he’d pushed too hard to probe a customs inspector's death. And even though it will reacquaint him with Marilyn Visconti, the wild-haired Italian who had ditched Dante's cousin to be with him, only to then flee mysteriously. Edgar-nominated author Stansberry (The Last Days of Il Duce, The Confession) locates this novel's heart and the majority of its action in North Beach, San Francisco's traditionally Italian district of 19th-century rowhouses, "drunks caterwauling in the midnight streets," and "old Calabrese ... all dressed in black, hunched over like crows on the wire." But finding his plot's principal thrust is not quite so easy. Dragon wants to be, at once, an emotionally charged account of Dante's struggle to recalibrate his life (by reconnecting with family and friends, and finally closing the customs inspector case) and a thriller centered around a "sting" meant to trap two drug dealers linked to one of Chinatown's most nefarious old clans. While the latter thread provides some late-chapter fireworks, it's the former that keeps this story enthralling, being nourished by Dante's response to the losses of both his father and uncle, his evolving partnership with a henpecked Chinese-American homicide detective, and his tormented encounters with the contrasting Misses Visconti and Blonde. Long-secreted photographs, a duplicitous pol, and a lawyer with a lust for lamé skirts all contribute intrigue to Stansberry's tale--enough so, that Dante's relative shallowness goes almost unnoticed. Fortunately, this protagonist will have the chance to sprout more dimensions: Chasing the Dragon is the first installment of a new series. --J. Kingston Pierce -- From Review

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