by Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Cover Artist: Jon Foster
Review by Colleen Cahill
Night Shade Books Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781597800785
Date: 15 May 2007 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Fixing one's mistakes is not an uncommon theme in literature. In science fiction, time travel is the most often method used, but fantasy literature offers other possibilities. In Jon Courtenay Grimwood's 9Tail Fox, a Sergeant in the San Francisco Police Department gets the chance to not only investigate his own murder, but also try to mend some of the damage he has done in the past, all due to the influence of a mystic white fox.
Bobby Zha has a reputation on the San Francisco police force, one that is a bit mixed. He had been a good cop, but now was getting burned out. His choices are often bad and this is reflected in his collapsing marriage and troubled teenage daughter. Still, it is a surprise when he is murdered in a deserted warehouse, and perhaps no one is more surprised than Bobby. While dying, he sees a celestial fox with nine tails, one his Chinese Grandfather had said was a beast of great power.
When Bobby awakens, he is in a New York city hospital in the body of another man: a very wealthy man who has been in a coma for decades. He might not know how or why this happened, but Bobby does realize he has a golden opportunity to discover who killed him and why. Under the name of Robert Vanberg, Bobby attends his own burial and wake, making interesting discoveries about the opinions of his co-workers and family. Capitalizing on the mistaken belief that he is a Federal investigator, Bobby beings examining the many threads that are tied to his murder, starting with his partner, who Bobby is certain is involved. He soon finds links to his previous cases and quickly there becomes a tangle of disappearing cats and homeless people, a shooting of a burglar by an eleven-year-old girl, disappearing and reappearing Russian icons and Bobby's own confusion about what he is looking for and why.
Grimwood brings Chinese mystic traditions together with a noir detective mystery, using flashbacks of Bobby's life to give a full picture of a disillusioned man. The complexity of this plot is mirrored in Bobby's heritage: a Chinese father and English mother left him with two cultural backgrounds, and his marriage to a Jewish woman adds further intricacies to his existence. One thing that is clear throughout the story is that Bobby Zha's essence is in body of another man: this is an important point that is at the center of why he was murdered.
9Tail Fox is definitely an adult novel, not just in its themes, but for several sex scenes in the book. It is also a beautifully crafted mystery, full of twists, surprises and loads of atmosphere, as well as the arcane enigma of the white fox. With it's gritty, fast-paced and elaborate plot, you will find yourself quickly immersed: I recommend it for any fans of noir mysteries, oriental fantasy or the writings of Jon Courtenay Grimwood.