Dragon Head

Aleksandr Talanov Thriller #4 By: James Houston Turner
Published On: April 2, 2020

Money. It’s all about money. Actually, a lot of money (1.5 billion). The boss of a Hong Kong crime syndicate named Dragon Head wants that money and he almost has it in his reaches when he hits a snag. This particular snag requires Talanov, and so “associates” of Dragon Head are sent from Hong Kong to hunt him down and bring him back.

In Dragon Head, Talanov’s story begins in the DC area, where he is going through the process of becoming a consultant to the CIA. The effort is grueling and he and his friend Bill Wilcox are spending hours in interviews and giving testimony with various committee members who are attempting to determine if Talanov’s services are needed. Some are very vocal that they do not believe Talanov should consult. While others believe he could be a valuable asset. It is during this period he goes on a planned vacation to the west coast to visit a friend – another ex KGB agent – who now runs a community center. While there Talanov gets a chance to relax and spend time with the social workers at the center and three foster children/teenagers that his friend watches over. However, it is also there where his two worlds collide as the Dragon Head associates find him and end up kidnapping one of the children to use as leverage.

Upon finishing this book, I realized I had two distinct and separate thoughts and reaction to the story. First, I’ve always seen or thought of spy thrillers as being predominantly plot-driven. It’s about the action and what leads to the crisis, what the bad guys do or plan to do that must be stopped by the main character. Often you get to know the main character’s and find them likeable, but you don’t necessarily spend a lot of time getting to know them and the supporting characters, except perhaps in crisis management mode. So, it was rather nice that there are a lot of moments where you are given an opportunity to get to know characters in the book – especially the three kids, who are still learning to trust that they have a home. I’d wager that the community center is really at the heart of the story because every reason that Talanov has for his actions are driven by his desire to save one of the children from Dragon Head. But for the reader it isn’t all about saving the child, but also about how the three kids stories are intertwined within the thriller.

The other distinct thought and reaction I had to the story is about plausibility with parts that I found were a little hard to believe and other parts that I found a little cliche. Although, I do suspend my belief in thrillers, I still find it a little difficult to believe two of the teenagers found their way onto a CIA spy plane without anyone seeing them and even before our main characters had made it to the plane. How did they know which plane? How did they know how to find the hanger? But this wasn’t the only time I wondered this, there were other moments I thought to myself “would that really happen?” Then, there was the good U.S. intelligence actors vs bad U.S. intelligence actors portion that felt a little unexpected and expected at the same time. Sometimes I felt like that portion was kind of cliche and other times it wasn’t an issue I noticed.

Overall, I found it a nice story, but just be aware it is not necessarily a spy/international thriller where you are constantly in action. A few moments spent out of action where you get to know supporting characters isn’t necessarily a bad thing – some folks like a little breathing room in their thrillers and like breaks from constant action. And don’t get me wrong, there is lots of action within the story that includes murder, theft, chases, airline collisions, being tracked…

Thanks to Netgalley and Regis Books for the advanced reader copy and opportunity to provide an honest review.

Rating: 3 stars


One and a half billion dollars vanishes out of a numbered account into a cyberspace maze. But the thief who stole it lies dead on the tracks of Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway, his access codes having perished with him.

If this were simply a matter of missing money, the United States would not be concerned. But a Hong Kong crime boss named Dragon Head wants the money to fund an army of hackers, one of whom has already penetrated America’s GPS network. The result: a midair collision that kills more than a thousand people.

With national security at stake, the Director of National Intelligence becomes very interested in the whereabouts of that money. He wants the funds to remain lost. But Dragon Head wants them found. And Colonel Aleksandr Talanov is caught in the middle.

Both sides think Talanov knows where the money is. But Talanov doesn’t have a clue. So both sides threaten to kill his closest friends unless he locates and surrenders the money. It’s an impossible situation when impossible is not an option, because whatever choice Talanov makes, someone will die.

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