The Demon and the City by Liz Williams

Published by Night Shade Books
February 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59780-111-9
325 Pages
Liz Williams’s Live Journal:  

Liz Williams second Detective Inspector Chen Novel – The Demon and the City – returns readers to the mystical/futuristic/noir-ish city of Singapore Three. Subtitled A Detective Inspector Chen Novel, the eponymous Chen doesn’t arrive fully on the scene until nearly halfway through the novel. Rather, Williams focuses much of the story on Chen’s new partner, Zhu Irzh, the demon of the novel’s proper title. Right off the bat, Williams is throws her own out the door very early in this entertaining sequel.

As the story progresses and Zhu’s new life in Singapore 3 unfolds, so does a mystery of a missing and murdered person. Robin Yuan conducts secret, sometimes excruciating experiments on a creature from Hell in her laboratory at the Paugeng [pharmaceuticals] Corporation. Early on, her discomfort with the experimenting becomes evident, despite the outwardly benevolent creature from Hell. Robin’s lover, Deveth, an heiress goes missing and Zhu Irzh is on the case. Like most good mysteries, the novel takes many turns as the plot progresses and we learn more about the Paugeng Coporation, Robin, her test subject and eventually, Robin’s boss Jhai Tserai, who forms an intimate connection with Zhu.

Part of the fun of these novels is the journey, because with most mysteries and mysteries masquerading in other genres, the outcome is known – the mystery is solved. As Williams did in the previous Chen novel, she explores the ambiguities of good and evil and the thin line that separates the motivations of those in Heaven from those in Hell. Subtle nuances are employed to further enrich and develop an already imaginative universe where you may be rooting for a Demon from Hell.

From the outset of the first Inspector Chen novel, Snake Agent, Williams was clearly carving her own niche in the growing subset of the genre some are calling Supernatural Fantasy or the Psychic Detective. Those novels that exist somewhere between our world and the world across the fence; a subset of entertaining novels the readers know what they are when they see them, to borrow an analogy. While writers like Laurell K. Hamilton and Jim Butcher are pulling in readers by the droves (and deservedly so), Williams is telling her own brand of unique stories that will resonate with those writers. With short chapters packed with a lot of story, Williams is excelling at telling a fast-paced, rich story. So far with two books in her Detective Inspector Chen sequence, she is changing the rules as she goes along and telling an engaging story.

© 2008 Rob H. Bedford

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