Zhu Irzh is having trouble adjusting to life on Earth. The food is bland, the colors dim, and the weather much too chilly for a demon used to the balmy climate of the underworld. Recently attached to the Singapore Three police department, Zhu Irzh has been assigned to help humans like Detective Inspector Chen investigate cases that overlap this world and the world to come. But how dedicated can a demon be to justice when his last assignment was to Hell’s vice squad—whose job is not to prevent vice, but to promote it?
Zhu Irzh is pondering these philosophical questions when he catches his first murder case: the savage killing of a rich would-be witch outside of the occult market. Chen is on a well-deserved vacation, so the demon takes charge himself, unearthing a supernatural conspiracy that proves Hell holds no monopoly on evil.
I really enjoyed the first Detective Inspector Chen book, so I was of course excited to read the next installment. It was a little different from the first book, not only because the focus was more on Zhu Irzh than on Chen, but also that the mystery wasn’t as, uh, interesting. But! I still had fun reading it.
Zhu Irzh was one of my favorite characters from Snake Agent, along with Chen and poor Sergeant Ma (whod idn’t get nearly enough airtime), and so I wasn’t put off by being focused on him more than Chen (though the series is named after Chen, the title should have been a clue). It was nice to see how he was settling into his new role as Hell liaison, and to see how he worked compared to Chen. Have you ever seen Life on Mars? Zhu Irzh tends to be more like DCI Gene Hunt while Chen is more like DI Sam Tyler. (If you’ve never seen Life on Mars, you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about, as well as having missed out on an excellent television series.) In other words, Zhu Irzh is more shoot-first-ask-later; Chen is more explain-everything-before-I-shoot-you-unless-you-shoot-me-first.
Anyway, the actual mystery was, like I said, kinda boring. The story, too, seemed a little polished than Snake Agent, and so I focused my attention on the bits I liked. I was much more interested in the developing romance between Robin, who works for the Paugeng Corporation, and Mhara, a “subject” of the Paugeng Corporation, than anything else, even Zhu Irzh’s own romance. Probably because I wasn’t paying too much attention to that aspect of the story, I lost track of what was happening halfway through and had to reread the solution a few times to make sure I understood everything. At least, I hope it was because I wasn’t paying attention, and not because it was poorly orchestrated. It wasn’t an entirely satisfactory ending, if I can say that without having to warn for spoilers, but neither was it horrible. That actually makes it sound worse than it was– being vague and avoiding spoilers can be so annoying, sometimes.
It actually got very exciting near the end, with a lot of chase scenes and things blowing up, etc. And there was a happy ending with Robin and Mhara! Not the typical mush-filled one, thankfully, but something much more interesting and more true to the characters/book. Ms. Williams really does some nifty things in her books, and though the mystery aspect didn’t interest me her characters and her writing did– and still do.
All in all, I enjoyed reading The Demon and the City despite its problems, and I look forward to reading the third book. Huzzah!
Read: July 2009