The Spirit of the Dragon

Written by William Andrews
Review by Helen Piper

The Spirit of the Dragon is the third book in William Andrews’ series depicting Korean women and their fates during the war, but it is not necessary to read them in order, or indeed to have read the other ones at all. The novel weaves together two timelines, one during the 1930s to 1960s, and one in present-day Los Angeles.

Anna Carlsson, an international human rights lawyer, assists in an investigation into a murder in a Koreatown nursing home. It’s a personal request from the key suspect, ninety-year old Suk-Bo Yi, who refuses to tell her story to anyone but Anna. At the request of LAPD, Anna decides to hear Suk-Bo’s story.

In 1937, the Japanese have occupied Korea and Suk-Bo is forced to marry a Japanese man, Hisashi. Against all odds, including cultural differences, prejudices, war, and destitution, the two fall in love. And then one day, Hisashi disappears. Suk-Bo sets out to find him, and what she learns is almost unbearable.

This is well-written historical fiction that steams along admirably. As Suk-Bo’s story unfolds, the reader gains an insight into the little-known history of Dr. Ishii and Unit 731, a Japanese equivalent to Dr. Mengele and his experiments. The author skillfully shows how bigotry against Koreans and Japanese has had a profound impact on individuals’ lives, even in present-day Los Angeles. The connection to Anna Carlsson adds a satisfying twist to the ending of the story. Highly recommended.