Chasing the Dragon

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Chasing the Dragon, his sixth novel, Domenic Stansberry offers a captivating tale about murder and betrayal. Dante Mancuso was once a San Francisco police detective in the North Beach community where he grew up. His conviction that a confessed murderer was not guilty ended his days on the force, leading to his recruitment by a shadowy government agency known only as “the company.” When his father dies, Dante is sent home from his longtime base in New Orleans to participate in the sting of a notorious Chinese American drug dealer.

Dante arrives in North Beach to find his uncle disturbed for reasons other than his brother’s death. Before the uncle can tell Dante about the problem facing the family, he is murdered, and Dante finds himself a suspect. Adding to his tensions are the jealousy of his cousin Gary, the frequent presence of Marilyn, his former lover, and his uneasiness about the company’s motives.

Dante convinces police detective Frank Ying to trust him, and they try to sort out all the connections between the Wu clan, an African American criminal, the police, the company, a seven-year-old murder, photographs of dead bodies from the same period, and the Mancuso family business.

Stansberry, best known for The Last Days of Il Dulce (1998), economically creates realistic characters and situations. Chasing the Dragon is moody, existential noir, gritty without being grim, a rich milieu in which no one is completely innocent or corrupt.