The Crimson-Eyed Dragon
D. M. Trink
Fiction, YA Mystery
DESCRIPTION: Aside from playing World of Warcraft, hanging out at the mall, and learning to drive, Jared had no big plans for his summer break. Helping his mother haul a desk to an antique store for refurbishing, he finds himself captivated by a silver dragon statue with gleaming red eyes. He wasn't going to buy it, but when he picked it up, one of its jeweled eyes fell out - almost as if it wanted him to have to take it home. In his room, trying to figure out how to fix it, Jared notices a hidden trigger behind the missing eye. Soon, he and his friends are neck-deep investigating the secrets of the dragon statue and its former owner, an investigation that draws some unwanted attention from unsavory strangers. Jared's lazy summer turns out to be far more interesting - and far more dangerous - than he could've dreamed!
REVIEW: A modern attempt at a Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew-type teen mystery, this book squanders a nice setup with weak writing and just plain unbelievable dialog. Trink tries to write Jared's teen world as a teen would experience it, but ends up sounding more like an adult trying to "speak teen." Jared calls his mother by her full name. Maybe it's a Canadian thing, but here in the 'States, kids refer to their mothers as Mom (or a variant thereof,) unless there's a very compelling reason to do otherwise (strained relationship, estrangement, stepmother, or so forth,) none of which apply here. He and his friends also trade unnatural dialog filled with words such as "abscond." (Do modern teenagers, especially in the texting age, really use "abscond" in casual conversation with each other?) The investigation itself stalls out frequently for side-trips to unrelated pool parties and meet-ups with friends, with at least one multi-page infodump on Asian dragon traditions that contributed nothing to the story (except to prove that Trink has access to a library and/or the Internet, and did research on the subject.) The bad guys have no deeper motive, no connection to the dragon-guarded treasure or the statue's deceased owner; they're dimwitted, quick-cash thugs, plain and simple, as evinced by their incredibly unimaginative monikers Sal and Eddie. It all wraps up with an overlong epilogue.
Granted, I've never read the original Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, but I cannot believe they'd be such enduring classics if they had been written this awkwardly. While I could see the story Trink wanted to tell, their skill level simply wasn't equal to the task. I'm just as glad I found it as a free-for-Kindle download.