GUEST REVIEWER – Surly Joe
- Title: The Dragon and the Needle
- Author: Hugh Franks
- ISBN13: 9781909716261
- Series: Stand Alone
- Published: June 26th 2014 by Book Guild Ltd
- Format: Trade Paperback
- Genre/s: Thriller/Suspense
- Print Length: 174 pages
- Source: Publisher
SYNOPSIS – The clash between the Orient and the West is put under the spotlight in this far-reaching novel of medical and political intrigue. A mysterious syndrome is striking down political leaders across the Western world. Named Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome, or ENDS, it has baffled medical experts. The Western prejudice against the mysteries of Oriental medicine, and the growing acceptance of acupuncture as an effective method of treatment, are just two of the contrasting approaches explored in the story. Then a brilliant young British doctor, Mike, and a glamorous American acupuncturist, Eleanor, become involved in finding the cause of ENDS. They think they are on the right track, but the implications are shocking. Could this be an audacious ideological plan for world domination? And how does Eleanor’s dead husband Chen fit in? When the secrets of Carry Tiger to Mountain are revealed, where will Eleanor’s loyalties ultimately lie?
In the short span of 174 large-printed pages, The Dragon and the Needle, by British author Hugh Franks, delves into international intrigue, the philosophical differences between East and West, murder, conspiracy, politics, acupuncture and modern medicine, a husband who may or may not be dead, and a love affair that may or may not be doomed. Its premise is interesting enough. ENDS – Extraordinary Natural Death Syndrome – is killing politicians and VIPs throughout the world. There are no symptoms. There is no understanding. People are just dying. It must be stopped. The fate of civilization is at stake.
Cue the music. We’ll be back after this commercial break.
This is not a novel. This is a soap opera worthy of American afternoon TV. It is peppered with stereotypes, inane dialogue (“He was smiling like an open piano” – huh?), ridiculous melodrama and contrived plot progression. Mike Clifford, a young, attractive and brilliant university researcher and doctor, will save the day. Eleanor Johnson, a young, attractive and brilliant acupuncturist and doctor, will help him save the day. And while they’re saving the day, they may as well fall in love at the same time. “I think I have to kiss you”, Mike says after only knowing her for a short time. And then he did. But just a quick kiss. They still have to save the day.
Structurally, The Dragon and the Needle ricochets from plot point to plot point through questions asked by the narrator. What will happen next? Will Mike and Eleanor be ok? Will their love last? Are they in danger? Who is the strange Chinese man? There are no chapters, just breaks in the action and a lot of sentences that end in …
Perhaps the question that should be asked is whether The Dragon and the Needle should be critically reviewed at all? Just like a soap opera, there will be a large audience whose only aspiration is to be entertained. All My Children and General Hospital survived and thrived for years. It didn’t matter if the characters weren’t believable and the story lines were far-fetched. It only mattered that it was entertaining. Using this logic, The Dragon and the Needle may be a success. Maybe it is good summertime-by-the-lake reading, an escape from the pressures and stresses of real life. It doesn’t have to be literature, it just has to amuse.
It just has to make you smile like an open piano.
About the Author
In his own words – Surly Joe is a moderately nondescript Toronto-based white guy who spends too much time contemplating the nature of boredom. His aspirations waver between wanting to be either a professional gambler or a Zen monk, with a touch of writing on the side. After completing university with a degree in a subject that does not readily lead to any sort of viable employment, he wandered through Europe and Northern Africa for a while collecting stories and useless trivia, Circumstance led to a career back in Toronto. He now spends his money on food, friends, wine and annual trips to Las Vegas.