Currently the last in the Detective Inspector Chen series. It deserves more than this partial review, but I am, after all, on vacation, so we’ll all take what sunshine we can get.
And this, after four books, seems like a solid return to form. It’s not the ideal place to start, as certain relationships have all progressed, and a certain demon has undergone character progression. Oh, and a certain somebody ascending to Heaven. So, yes: not the ideal place to start. Otherwise, a plot-establishing line like:
“In that case,” Mhara said, “could you come to Heaven for a day or so? To look at the scene of the crime?”
just won’t make any sense. Or what about a description of the setting?
“But no one wanted to leave the comforts of the east for this difficult and still dangerous land, a place where sandstorms scoured the desert and the land stretched red and black for miles. Not unlike Hell, really, but without the crowds.”
In this, Williams weaves myths of the desert with the otherworldly mythology of China as all of China faces an existential threat. As crazy as it eventually gets–and at one point, it’s definitely quite unique–it is nonetheless possible to follow the plot and enjoy it, particularly with a little helpful summing up:
“That was—a friend. At least, I think he’s a friend. Says he’s in a floating moveable city in the middle of Tibet and my fiancé’s gone back in time to try and sort things out. We’re in trouble.”
Williams is one of those writers that consistently hits my sweet spot between description and plotting, never losing sight of either. Though the missions are deadly serious, there’s also opportunities for a smile or two, particularly as the demon:
“Zhu Irzh once more felt that faint, strange tremor of unease that he’d learned to identify as his conscience.”
If you’ve come this far, be bold! Finish the series (although, to be honest, it does seem like Williams left the door open a crack for further adventures). If you haven’t tried the series yet, what are you waiting for?
“A simple matter, he thought, and then reflected on the nature of famous last words.”