Saturday, June 27, 2009

Detective Inspector Chen Series - Liz Williams

It's Summer. Time for a get-a-way to someplace warm and exotic.

OK, so we all can't take off and go to Tahiti, or even Florida, or Virginia Beach, but we can travel through books. Liz Williams' wonderful Detective Inspector Chen Novels make for a great reading vacation.

The series is set in Singapore Three a sprawling city in an alternative near future. Creatures from Chinese folklore walk the streets rubbing elbows with traditional grandmothers, and urban techno-punks. Heaven, Earth, and Hell are linked by next generation cell phones, and with the right paperwork business tycoons travel between the levels of reality. Det. Insp. Wei Chen is a detective who can summon ghosts, while investigating why the ghost of a wealthy industrialist's daughter has not shown up for her appointment in Heaven, Chen is pared with Seneschal Zhu Irzh, a vice cop from Hell, literally. He's a demon, but honest and honorable in his own way, and somewhat cursed with a conscience. Chen is middle aged and hard working, he has spent his professional life dedicated to a goddess, he does not rock the boat or break rules, except for marrying a beautiful young demon who he helped escape an arranged marriage in Hell. Needless to say that complicates things when her former fiancee and her family seem to bee connected with the missing ghost.

All this takes place in Snake Agent. In the other two books the plot thickens, a goddess goes mad, two nice young ghosts have a son, who might not be all he seems, Chen, and Zhu Irzh, and Celestial Warrior, who looks like a fragile, young girl, get sent on a fact-finding misson to Hell complications insure and various adventures take place. Oh and there are Dragons. Williams books are Urban Fantasies, but without the cliches that often make the sub genre feel stale these days. She does a wonderful job of realizing Singapore Three, and it's mirror city in Hell. Williams makes her readers feel like they have been to the city, from the small stifling hot go-downs and street markets to the glittering homes and offices of the super-rich business and industrial elite to Chen's house boat docked on the edge of the City's crowded harbor. Hell is run by powerful ministries, War, Epidemics, Lust etc. Upper Class demons, and souls who's family did not follow the proper ceremonies, or pay the right fees to get then into heaven live lives much like folks on earth , the lower levels are full of mindless horrors and hungry ghosts. Heaven is perfect, peach scented and maybe just a touch boring, for those not ready to become Celestial beings.

Chen, Zhu Irzh are great characters. The supporting cast is also wonderful. There is Chen's sweet demon wife Inari, her pet tea pot badger. Robin Yuan, is a wage slave at Paugeng, a powerful multi-national parmacutical company and Mhara , a timid young demon being used as a lab rat in Paugeng's research diversion. Jhai Tserai, is the Paugeng heiress, a brilliant business woman, murder suspect, not all the she seems and possibly Zhu Irzh's soul mate. Mrs. Pa is an elderly widow raising the grandson because her daughter's ghost didn't want him growing up in Hell. Mai a young woman sent to Hell by mistake when she died of cholera at age three.

So, if you can't get away the usual way to some place exotic this summer you can't go wrong diving into a books and taking a visit to Singapore Three.


Yunaleska said...

They sound like fun! I'll try and give htem a go :)

Kimber An said...

Oh, good one, Mfitz!

Mfitz said...

I'm only about half way through Precious Dragon, but I'm already at the point where I know I'm going to miss the book when I finish. That is always the sign of a good read for me, even if the feeling is a little bittersweet.

Mfitz said...

Oh forgot to add, I love turning folks on to a writer I really enjoy, especially if they are a little off the beaten path. This series is top notch in my opinion and I'm not sure why it does not get more buzz.