Williams, Liz: Snake Agent (Detective Inspector Chen I) (2005)

I know very little about PRC and Singapore. My knowledge has greatly increased since before reading about Detective Inspector Chen Wei, the snake agent, of Singapore 3’s Police department. Singapore 3 is a Franchise city. At the beginning DI Chen wonders whether there is another DI Chen in the other Singapores. I would really like to know what that means.

Obviously, Snake Agent would have to be either on a parallel version of Earth or in the near-future. Snake Agent is in the near future. In this near-future people are just moving away from the electric net to a bio-web. I think this belongs to something called biological systems engineering. The way Liz Williams describes the bio-web is true to real life. There is the glossy brochure that states that all of the participants willing and able and loving their job. Then there is the grosser truth of tubing back and front on the people keeping the bio-web going.

After contact between Earth and the super-natural world became visible, communication between them has bettered. Authorized personnel can f.ex. send e-mails between the Underworld (Chinese Hell) and Earth. Snake Agents from Earth and representatives from the Underworld can travel between the two worlds, which is how three of the characters meet.

Some time ago DI Chen rescued his now wife, Inara, from the clutches of her fiance. She had run away and somehow she and her retainer, a Badger, ended up with him. Inara, Chen and the Badger worry that she is still being hunted by the Underworld. Some of the people who could be on her trail are extremely dangerous to the health of the hunted. Turns out Inara is still being hunted by her power-hungry ex-fiancè. The Minister of Epidemics takes his job seriously and looks it. He is a demon willing to go to any length to increase his power.

Inara being kidnapped happens while DI Chen is on the main chase of Snake Agents. Ghosts of young, virtuous girls are disappearing on their way to heaven. The disappearance of one such girl is what led DI Chen to the rest. Unbeknownst to each other, part of Earth’s and part of Hell’s bureaucracy unite in finding the answer to this problem. DI Chen from Earth and Seneschal Zhu Irzh from the Underworld’s Vice Squad accidentally meet and end up kind of working together. At first the two help each other out without telling their bosses. Their working relationship becomes more permanent during Snake Agent. What the two discover can end up making scape-goats out of them.

I had fun with Snake Agent. It was a great read about the distribution of power, gender and the solving of several crimes. I was entertained from page one and out. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


Snake Agent available at Open Road


An introduction to living in the Chinese cosmos

Hell in Chinese Mythology

The gates to Taizong’s Hell

Doing business in China vs. Singapore

Cultural differences between Singapore Chinese and PRC Chinese

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