This is the Kirkus Reviews take on DRAGONY RISING, the fifth Frank Nagler Mystery.
Thanks to the reviewer for a thoughtful examination of the story.
The conclusion: “This crackling series installment provides a wide-angle shot of society and generations in conflict.”
A detective and his allies uncover a deep-rooted conspiracy in this fifth installment of a mystery series.
After the tragic results of a prior case, Det. Frank Nagler is on leave from the Ironton, New Jersey, police department. Early one morning, he’s asleep next to his lover, city planner Lauren Fox, when a massive explosion rocks the city. The recently sold block of Warren Street in downtown Ironton has been leveled. Frank climbs Ironton’s new bridge for a look at the damage and assumes a natural gas leak is responsible.
Then he notices a single kitchen chair sitting on the roof of a theater on the blast zone’s periphery. He’s joined by reporter Jimmy Dawson, who agrees with his suspicions that the chair’s presence isn’t an accident.
Meanwhile, Lauren, while researching potential victims on the Warren block, sees a tax map indicating that about 50 people live there. Yet after several days of searching, only four bodies are found.
As the situation grows complicated, Frank works with Dr. Phillips Ignatius to overcome his PTSD after witnessing a former police commander shoot and kill three officers.
Frank is teaching at the police academy when Mahala Dixon, one of his students, insists on his help getting her father, former cop Carlton Dixon, released from prison. Carlton has been wrongfully incarcerated for 15 years, Mahala claims, as she hands Frank a file detailing incidents from 2006.
When it’s determined that one of the Warren Street victims was stabbed before the explosion, subtle connections begin forming between seemingly disparate urban elements—real estate investor Taylor Mangot II and the shadowy Dragon Alliance group, among them.
Daigle’s series, in which the decaying Ironton is as rich a character as Frank, continues with this epic installment. The plot distills motifs that have hijacked American discourse for several years, including gentrification, hordes of angry White men adrift, and, most pointedly, maniacal real estate moguls.
This narrative weaves in details from previous volumes that add emotional color, such as Frank’s deceased wife, Martha, and his formative relationship with the nun Sister Katherine. Numerous characters with deep secrets, like Mahala and retired Det. Jeff Montgomery, help maintain an urgent noir atmosphere.
The city’s ironworking history plays an immediate role, lingering phantomlike in Frank’s memory: “His father’s last job was shifting glowing metal parts hooked to chains and pulleys from the molding room to the cooling line; his father’s face had a permanent tan from the heat….It hollowed him out, just like these building shells.”
In contrast, Mangot speaks of the past as something to shed in the line: “This city looks backward, preserving the old, dirt red brick as if it is an act of mercy, as if somehow the cries and sweat of the ancient workers are more meaningful than the efforts of the men who paid the wages.”
In the book’s final third, after following tangled money trails, Daigle’s heroes witness citywide chaos that readers will recognize as frighteningly possible.
Despite ending on a hopeful note, the tale may leave fans battered with a thought that’s become inescapable to modern Americans: What does this country stand for?
This crackling series installment provides a wide-angle shot of society and generations in conflict.