Publication Date: May 7, 2014
Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome (ENDS) is killing celebrities and people of note. When Dr. Mike Clifford and Eleanor Johnson, a noted Chinese trained acupuncturist, start investigating the disease they discover that the cause may be more sinister than they ever imagined.
Book Guild Publishing provided a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
The Dragon and the Needle is a thriller on an international scale. Mike and Eleanor are brought together by a colleague to investigate a mystery disease that is highly suspicious in its exclusivity. Mike and Eleanor each seem somewhat wary of common pitfalls of the other’s profession at first, but there is soon an undeniable connection. The only problem for the reader is we’re left wondering what each finds so great about the other. We have no other reason to believe their attraction other than as a matter of convenience.
The dialogue in The Dragon and the Needle is awkwardly rife with shallow emotion. At Kindle location 2573, Eleanor is described as being “filled with loathing for him, and it was becoming more and more difficult to hide her feelings. But she must!” Her next line in the novel is said in a voice that “quavered.” At first I wrote the awkwardness of language off as the difference in language culturally, but over time I expected a bad guy to walk “on-screen” twirling a moustache. When Mike and Eleanor are reunited, and the door was locked, the whole scene played out like a cheesy movie and while readers of this blog know there are times when I adore a good cheesy read, this was not one of those times. The element of The Dragon and the Needle that annoyed me most was that Eleanor began as a smart and independent woman and seemingly devolved. Let’s be fair to this woman; she was in a stressful situation. One cannot fault her for dissolving into tears from time to time.
Over the course of the novel, she steadily becomes more dependant on Mike and his strength. One has to assume to get where she’s gotten before the story she has to have worked hard and been assertive especially as an American female living in a traditional Chinese society. Toward the end of the novel, there is a decidedly Nicholas Sparks feel to the female lead, and I cannot name one novel by Nicholas Sparks that I’ve read and enjoyed.
That isn’t to say that The Dragon and the Needle isn’t a good novel. It is a story with a fabulously good idea that lacks in execution. While there are elements that could have been better done, the novel reads as having been written by an author with a great idea, but without a clear path to bringing it to life. It is the great idea that kept this reader interested and reading. If Franks could self-edit and make the characters more plausible, The Dragon and the Needle could be a knock-out hit.
There is a lot of personal drama in The Dragon and the Needle and if you enjoy a lot of back story, you might like The Dragon and the Needle. This is Hugh Franks first novel and for a first outing it’s very cleanly constructed and speaks to where the author could go. Pick it up today and let me know what you think.
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