The Shadow Pavilion: A Detective Inspector Chen Novel
by Liz Williams
Edited by Marty Halpern
Cover Artist: Jon Foster
Review by Sherin Nicole
Night Shade Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781597801225
Date: 30 June 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The gods are definitely crazy and Detective Inspector Chen is dealing with enough of them to over run several asylums--not to mention Heaven, Hell, and all that lies between.
In Liz Williams' fourth Detective Inspector Chen novel, following Snake Agent, The Demon And The City and Precious Dragon, the Inspector's life is still far beyond mundane. His near future world is rooted in threes: the three realms of Heaven, Hell, and Earth; life in the third incarnation of Singapore (aptly called Singapore Three); but mostly by the three entities around which his life revolves. There's his demon wife, Inari, her badger familiar (aptly named Badger)—who's handy in a pinch and always prepared to make the tea; and Chen's demon, Vice Squad partner turned BFF, Zhu Irzh.
Immediately following the events of Precious Dragon, Chen's old friend Mhara ascends to the throne of Emperor of Heaven. Of course in classic the gods must be crazy style Mhara has decided heaven must, "...literally—forbid that any more human souls should come here, cluttering up the place, contaminating it with their still-mortal essence." With this kind of proclamation is it any wonder an oddly conflicted assassin is dispatched to take Mhara out? Not from where I'm sitting. Of course, the new Emperor of Heaven is not the only god dallying with lunacy. Zhu Irzh and Badger learn this when a god from a different Pantheon drops them into a jungle hell. (As if the gods of China aren't enough now Hindu demon lords are running amuck as well.)
Chen and Inari set off to find their two lost friends while working to avert the celestial assassination. Zhu Irzh and Badger set off to find Zhu's missing fiancé who's planning a wedding without the groom. (Well, without the proper groom at any rate.) If all of this fails to thrill, add a Bollywood bombshell who possesses the dark secret to it all.
The Shadow Pavilion reads like the expansion of an epic poem -- one fortified with modern humor enough to keep the reader smiling. At one point the Demon Lord asks Zhu, "How does a life in the [eternal] fire sound to you?" Zhu replies, "A bit Catholic, actually." A conversation which was preceded by an explosion filled escape and a run through flaming trees.
Somehow Liz Williams blends occultist, near-future, detective action, with eastern mythology, lovely prose and giggles. No easy feat. This makes The Shadow Pavilion a lot of fun but a tough place to jump aboard. I recommend starting at the beginning with Snake Agent. However, fans of the series will be more than happy to ride along with what may be Detective Inspector Chen's best adventure.