Liz Williams' series of an Asian world where Heaven and Hell are places you can go to and come back from, and demons can live in Singapore Three or Hell.
Detective Inspector Chen, the Singapore Three police department's snake agent (handles other-wordly crime), with partner Demon Zhu Irzh, investigates the case of ghost-girl Pearl Tang and the father who murdered her to protect his business of supplying virtuous souls to Hell.
Really enjoyable writing and interesting characters.
SNAKE AGENT is set in the near future and introduces us to Detective Inspector Chen. He is a police officer in Singapore Three, heading up the supernatural crimes division. The story begins when the daughter of a wealthy family shows up at the gates of Hell, the victim of a murder. Chen begins to investigate, and discovers that it's more than a simple crime. A conspiracy is fomenting in Hell, and it reaches into the highest echelons of the government. With the help of a demon liaison from Hell's Ministry of Vice, Chen races against time to stop what could lead to the death of untold numbers of humans.
One thing I enjoyed about SNAKE AGENT is that Williams isn't abashed about abusing her characters. Chen's goal in the story is complicated by the fact that he's married to a demon named Inari who fled from an arranged marriage in Hell. A government-sanctioned ghost hunter believes that Chen is being stalked and takes it upon himself to kill Chen's wife. Inari leaves Chen and goes back to Hell, believing he'll be safer without her. So, while Chen's trying to save the world, he's also trying to convince his wife to return home. Also, Chen is a devotee of the goddess Kuan Yin. His marriage to a demon has put him on bad terms with his patron, and his increased activities during his mission only further strain the relationship.
I loved the use of Asian mythology as a building block. Williams does a great job making the different conception of Hell fascinating. Also, there are a lot of great little world-building moments. For example, demons regard blood in the same way that people like chocolate. Additionally, Inari is accompanied by a familiar that can shape shift to be either a tea kettle or a badger. This reminded me a lot of the Japanese folklore about the tanuki.
One interesting aspect of this book is that it's set in the near future. There are several technological advances in the area of biotechnology. Also, there's an interesting political twist. It seems that in Inspector Chen's future, China has either come to govern over a large part of southern Asia or has a lot of pull. Today, Singapore is an independent republic, and one would infer that any future colonies would be a part of that republic. However, the ghost hunter is from Beijing and an ardent member of the Communist party.
In closing, I'd recommend SNAKE AGENT to readers interested in urban fantasy who also like a good detective yarn. It's an exciting melange that will keep you entertained.
First Detective Inspector Chen series in this genre-bending fantasy/mystery. Chen lives and works in a slightly futuristic Singapore as an investigator of paranormal crimes. He's been to Hell and back several times--literally--even marrying a demon and bringing her out of Hell, which is strictly forbidden. With Inaria comes a family retainer--a teakettle that morphs into a badger! (My favorite character! LOL) I loved the premise and the world Williams paints in this book. When he begins investigating why the ghost of a young girl never made it to Heaven, Chen ends up in working with one of Hell's investigators, a demon named Zhu Irzh, who is working on another case on the side for the Ministry of Wealth, trying to figure out what the devious Ministry of Epidemics is up to. Eventually the cases tie together and Chen and Zhu Irzh do a lot of working together. Hard to describe this book or to include all the crazy sub-plots; you really have to read it! Excellently written, fresh and different and very enjoyable. Looking for the next!
Good book, and an unusual twist on your usual urban fantasy. I liked the depiction of Hell as sort of a mirror image of our capitalist society - just your average "person" trying to get ahead. This book had interesting characters and a refreshing lack of graphic sex scenes. I'm looking forward to reading the next one in the series.
This book wasn't as good as I had hoped it would be. The story was interesting, but the first half of the book was hard to follow - all sorts of subplots, lots of characters to keep track of, the terminology was sometimes difficult to understand, and the writing style wasn't great, in my opinion. But I kept reading and was glad I did, because the final third of the book became more interesting and things started to come together. It was a good enough read, but not fantastic.
An interesting mix of paranormal, fantasy and mystery where heaven and hell are real places that can be visited, demons walk among people on earth and trading in lost souls and ghosts is apparently as profitable as any other. Thankfully, there was no unnecessary gore or a plethora of corpses littering the storyline and the author made it an intriguing read. Looking forward to the next one in the series!