cover image Riding the Snake

Riding the Snake

Stephen J. Cannell. William Morrow & Company, $25 (383pp) ISBN 978-0-688-15805-7

""Riding the snake"" refers to the immense underground Chinese immigration--a slave trade of criminals into the U.S. and the heart of this thriller. Cannell, an Emmy Award-winning writer/producer whose TV credits include The Rockford Files, Baretta and The Commish, tells fast-paced, all-plot, no-passion stories. His fourth novel (after King Con) is no exception, delivering international intrigue, a flawed hero who grows up, the gorgeous female cop who comes to love him and a sinister Hong Kong triumvirate of murderous smugglers. Drunken trust-fund jock Wheeler Cassidy is wasting his life and has lost his family's respect--especially when he's compared to his splendid brother, Prescott, a political power broker. When Prescott is murdered, Wheeler pairs up with beautiful Tanisha Williams, an African American detective in LAPD's Asian Crimes Task Force, to investigate. A second murder (the horrible ""death of a thousand cuts"") sets them against formidable ""Willy"" Wo Lap Ling, head of the notorious Hong Kong triad, and mainland eminence grise Chen Boda. Their criminal networks reach into the highest levels of the U.S. government with payoffs to politicians (their link to Prescott) and to police forces, all of which facilitate the river of heroin to U.S. gangs, with arms and even nuclear weapons thrown in for good measure. Snappy prose, a vibrant sense of place and strong local cop tales stand in for nuanced characters or ethical overtones. But then readers don't look to Cannell for those refinements. U.K. rights to Michael Joseph; French rights to Editions Flammarion; author tour. (Oct.)