For weeks, illegal Chinese refugees have been crammed onboard a freighter sailing from Hong Kong to San Francisco, hoping for a future better than what they would have in China, knowing they will likely be little more than slaves in America, and suffering at the hands of the brutal crew. Among them, a woman clad in black and trained in deadly arts, bides her time. When she senses the ship is near San Francisco, she strikes, leaving death in her wake and vanishing from the ship with a secret treasure sheís spirited away from Hong Kong.
As a private investigator, Cape Weathers is willing to let the police handle the illegal refugees since no oneís paying him to get to the bottom of the matter, until he learns how the crew has been killed: quick, precise, without mercy. Thereís only one person he knows with such skill - his friend and partner, Sally, whose past is shadowy even to him. When Cape goes in search of Sally and finds her missing, his fears double, leaving him with no choice but to dig deeper into the mystery of the refugees. His investigation takes him into the underside of Chinatown, where heís forced to confront the deadly Triad society and Sallyís past.
Stealing the Dragon may be a Cape Weathers Investigation, but itís Capeís partner, Sally, who steals the show. Mysterious and powerful with a dark and intriguing past, Sally is a character whom readers canít help but want to know more about and see often. Thatís not to say that Cape isnít interesting; the wisecracking detective is sure to evoke a chuckle or two from readers, but few characters would be able to compete against a force like Sally - though together, the pair creates a fine dichotomy in their personalities.
Perhaps one reason that Sally comes across much deeper than Cape is that a great deal more time is spent telling her history than his. For more than half the book, nearly every other chapter bounces between Capeís present investigation and Sallyís past, where as a five-year-old child she began her training to become an assassin. The chapters that diverge into Sallyís past are some of the most interesting in the book, and even the writing feels crisper and sharper, leaving the reader with the feeling that Sally could carry a novel on her own. When she and Cape are reunited, itís clear that Cape gathers much of his personal strength from her. Still, nothing is ever dull when Cape comes into a scene, and itís fun to read a character whoís on the good side of the law but willing to lean over to the other side to get the answers and results he needs.
The investigation itself is interesting in the places it takes readers while Cape navigates the streets of San Francisco and is loaded with colorful characters. For his debut novel, author Tim Maleeny brings forth a highly entertaining piece of detective fiction. With such a good start in Stealing the Dragon, thereís much hope that the adventures Cape and Sally will embark upon in the future will be just as exciting.