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The Gold Dragon Caper Book Review

by Kathleen Lance

Synopsis

PI couple Damien and Milie Dickens are under attack by a vengeful Derek Turpin. Their business is in tatters and their office destroyed in an arson attempt.

When their friend Susan Sutherland’s nephew is kidnapped, Damien and Millie begin to investigate. While Damien is on the trail of the kidnappers, Millie rushes to the rescue of a sister-in-law she’d never met. Their investigations take them across the country from Vermont to Utah with a frightening stop in Las Vegas.

Theme of the Book

The theme of The Gold Dragon Caper is revenge, robbery, kidnapping, and a shocking revelation all interwoven in this installment of the story of the Dickens Detective Agency.

What I Liked About the Story

There are two seemingly separate cases involved in this novel: the kidnapping of Artie, Susan’s nephew, and the theft of the Gold Dragon nugget. Ms. Entis has taken the unusual step of separating Damien and Millie and having each involved in one of the cases. This means that the novel jumps back and forth from one to the other. The reader knows that somehow the two will come together at the end, but Ms. Entis maintains the suspense most of the way through her story.

As in the previous installments of the Dickens story, the atmosphere and the details of the characters’ surroundings are very well done. It will be hard for some readers to remember the days before cell phones, when personal computers were just a dream, and when it was perfectly possible to show up for a flight twenty minutes before departure. Instead of basing her solution on technology, this author writes of situations that wouldn’t exist if technology were available. It takes readers into the recent past in a most believable way.

Whatever Ms. Entis’s political leanings, her portrait of Derek Turpin, the villain of the novel, is a somewhat exaggerated picture of Donald Trump. Like Trump, Turpin is a casino owner in Atlantic City, a real estate developer, and a man who does not forgive his enemies. Even the physical portrait of Turpin is reminiscent of Trump: “He glowered at her, his lower lip protruding in its usual pout. His face was flushed under an unnatural, orange-tinged tan, and his thinning blond hair was combed forward. His ill-fitting suit jacket hung open, exposing an expanding waistline.” While the reader can only hope that Turpin’s and Trump’s behaviors are not completely alike, the similarities make for a fantastic villain.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

When I read my first Phyllis Entis novel, I couldn’t wait to read the next. If I had read The Gold Dragon Caper first, I may not have tried another. Although the basic ideas in the novel are very good, the plot seems to lack the cohesion of Ms. Entis’s other books.

Until the final few pages, the novel moved along well with twists, turns, and plenty of action. The end of the novel gives us the “shocking revelation” that simply doesn’t fit. Without giving away too much about this revelation, let me simply say that had it not been made, the story would have continued on in much the same way. It is almost impossible to make this clear without spoilers, but let the reader beware.

The investigation of the kidnapping far outweighs the investigation of the theft of the gold nugget. The nugget seems more of an afterthought added, perhaps, as a frame for the revelation that comes at the end. And the ending? It felt as if the author just wanted to finish the book – as if she had spent too much time on it already. I was very disappointed.

Final Say

I would highly recommend the first three novels in this series. They were strong, full of captivating characters, atmosphere, and humor. The Gold Dragon Caper and the fourth installment, lacked the crisp writing of the first three and was a disappointing read by comparison.