Monday, August 14, 2006

9tail Fox - Jon Courtenay Grimwood

This is another murder mystery with a supernatural twist - the twist in this case being that the detective is investigating his own murder from Beyond the Grave. Bobby Zha is a failed and slightly corrupt detective in San Francisco's Chinatown, who is shot dead during a routine investigation but then wakes up in the body of a coma patient, via the intervention of the mysterious ghost fox of the title, and comes back to find out the truth and to bring his murderer to justice.

It does sound rather cheesy (and suspiciously similar to that godawful film Ghost), but the book is very well written and the setting is convincingly gritty. There are some fascinating glimpses into the San Francisco underworld, and hints of even darker events leading back to Stalinist Russia, all paced very effectively and making it very hard to put the book down. The character of Bobby Zha is also extremely interesting, if somewhat bleak - a man too busy wallowing in his own problems to notice his flaws until it was almost too late.

Unfortunately, it's not only the main character that has flaws; the book sports a few of its own. My main gripe was that the reincarnated Zha has it FAR too easy, and aside from dealing with his own personal demons, the investigation goes ridiculously smoothly - suddenly gaining the body of a young, fit and handsome millionaire removes a lot of the sympathy you might feel for the guy's problems. The book was also let down by its ending - the deep dark mystery turns out to be less dark and mysterious than it was indicated to be, and the final scene looked as if it had been pasted in from any old by-the-numbers Hollywood action thriller. This is a shame; the supernatural elements showed a lot of promise, but in the end the thought of a film-rights sale seems to have won out.



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