Review of The Shadow Pavilion – Book 4 of The Inspector Chen series by Liz Williams

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I first published this review back when a very select few were visiting my blog, so thought I’d recycle it as it has only been seen by a handful of visitors…

shadowpavilionA bit fed up with your urban fantasy detectives? Well, if you do fancy a change from the plethora of vampires and/or werewolves that frequent city streets righting wrongs – then look no further than the Inspector Chen books by Liz Williams.

Set in a near-futuristic city, Singapore Three, Inspector Chen is a Chinese police officer whose remit takes him into Heaven and Hell to investigate crimes. Having said that, the vivid characters surrounding him easily eclipse our self-effacing hero. Chen’s wife is a half-demon on the run from Hell and her pet protector is a badger whose lethal persistence are matched only by his bite and ability to turn himself into a teakettle. Williams even manages to make the Celestial Emperor, Mhara, an intriguing personality – which is a feat. Ineffable goodness, while very pleasant, is often rather boring, except in Williams’ hands…

Singapore Three, Heaven and Hell are described with panache in Williams’ vivid prose. This particular story follows the adventures of a Bollywood director who summons up a Tiger demoness to star in one of his films. However, when he tries to send her back, a trail of destruction is unleashed that pulls in Chen’s partner and the badger. And if that wasn’t enough, the fabled Shadow Pavilion houses a formidable assassin, Lord Lady Seijin, contracted to kill an extremely important personage. If Seijin succeeds, the fragile stability of Heaven, Hell and Earth will dissolve into chaos…

Williams’ lush prose whips this story along at a cracking pace. Now that I’ve read previous Inspector Chen novels, know the characters and fully appreciate the world she has created, I was able to relax and thoroughly enjoy the ride. But – and it’s a major But – I didn’t start this series with the first book and I nearly didn’t bother finishing it. This world is so very different with its richly textured Eastern origins, that I was frankly floundering until I read the first novel, Snake Agent. So do, please, read these books in order, or you won’t get the best out of Williams’ entertaining, sophisticated writing.
8/10

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2 responses »

  1. I can guarantee that you won’t have read anything else quite like it… Liz Williams is one of those scandalously underrated writers whose work packs a real punch. Her writing is dense, witty and inventive and – dare I say it? – if she were a man I think her name would be a lot better known…

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