Friday, July 11, 2008

9Tail Fox, by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

9Tail Fox
Jon Courtenay Grimwood

“A Dead Cop Must Solve His Own Murder!”

Hooked yet? That’s from the front cover of the Night Shade edition of 9Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood. It was enough to sell me on the novel. Great tag line.

Bobby Zha is a mixed race Chinese detective in a near future San Francisco Chinatown. He is not a very popular cop, but he is good at his job and has a bit of a legend behind him for being shot on duty while protecting an older officer. Early on in the novel we get the sense that Zha is “other”, that he doesn’t quite belong in the precinct or in his own house with his wife and daughter. Several chapters later, in the midst of an investigation, Zha is shot and killed. Given the tag line on the front cover, this is hardly a spoiler, though from time to time in the first couple of chapters I wondered if Zha was already a ghost. Rather than his soul / spirit / consciousness going wherever it is that dead people go, Bobby’s mind (for lack of a better word) wakes up in another body on the other side of the world. He has full memories of his life as Bobby Zha and while he recognizes that he can never BE Bobby Zha again, he still has a responsibility back in San Francisco. Perhaps the responsibility is to find his killer, as well as solve that last case he was working on when killed.

“A Dead Cop Must Solve His Own Murder!”

Sounds good, huh? The whole reincarnation aspect of the story provides a nice twist and rather than Grimwood telling a new version of Ghost, we get Zha working two identities: the man he was and the man he now is who has resources but no inherent connections to the world of law enforcement. It’s an interesting dynamic to watch as Zha attempts to insert himself back into a semblance of a life back in San Francisco while knowing he likely only has a short time left in this new body.

9Tail Fox pretty much has just one science fiction element, that being Zha’s being dead and in a new body. It’s a police detective novel in a near future San Francisco and there is a bit of an edge to the story (as one would hope for in a SF police novel). 9Tail Fox is not bogged down by minute procedural detail, though it feels like Grimwood got his research right.

“A Dead Cop Must Solve His Own Murder!”

Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s 9Tail Fox has flow. The chapters build and build the dramatic tension as Zha gets deeper and deeper into figuring out what happened. 9Tail Fox is flat out exciting to read.

259 pages in trade paperback, 9Tail Fox is lean but packs a whole lot into those 259 pages while keeping the story moving. No wasted words and the detail and feeling of place does not overwhelm the most important part: The story. It's really good.

"A Dead Cop Must Solve His Own Murder!"

What more do you really need to know?

Reading copy provided courtesy of Night Shade Books.


Cloudscudding said...

I was going to say you'd probably enjoy the Liz Williams' Detective Inspector Chen novels, and then I saw you were already reading one. Good choice!

Joe said...

Sure am! I really liked Snake Agent, so I'm looking forward to starting this one.

Unknown said...

That is a great hook. Sounds like perfect summer reading material to me.