The Demon and the City

Posted by : atcampbell | On : January 7, 2008

The Demon and the City by Liz Williams

Ten of us gathered at the North Village library for this meeting. Our topic was The Demon and the City, second in the Detective Inpector Chen supernatural crime. While the first novel, The Snake Agent, focused on the human Chen, this book concentrates more on Chen’s partner, the demon Zhu Irzh. Nine of us had read Liz Williams previously. We all started the book, and eight of us finished.

The Demon and the City was one member’s first Liz Williams book. She started reading it but felt lost until she realized that there was a prior book. So she found The Snake Agent and read it, then returned to the newer book. She enjoyed it much more on the second try.

We liked a lot about this book. The setting and mythology, taken from China and India, were interesting. The visit to the Chinese Heaven was fun, but too brief. We liked the book’s mystery element and how it unfolded. We enjoyed reading about people practicing feng shui. We all felt that Williams is a strong storyteller with good craft. Her smooth and sensual prose style is perfect for this book.

It was fun to learn more about Zhu Irzh, but some wondered if he might be a better supporting character. We were amused that he came from Hell’s Vice Squad, whose directive was to encourage vice. One person felt this book was strongly influenced by 9/11. There is a striking image of a collapsing tower.

The book features an “evil CEO” whose role evolves over the course of the book. We were pleased that she was not simply a cardboard villain sent to jail at the end, but rather a complex character who looks to emerge as a major supporting character for the series.

A few people commented that while they liked this book, it was less satisfying than The Snake Agent. They felt The Demon and the City had less novelty, less “snapple and pop” in its plot, and a weaker ending. There were comments that the plot seemed rushed. Some even felt that Williams’s descriptions of visuals were not as good as in the prior book.

Overall we enjoyed The Demon and the City, and most of us plan to read future books by Liz Williams.

At the end of the meeting, we had a brief discussion of other supernatural detective series to recommend. Those named include Thraxas by Martin Scott, Garrett by Glen Cook, the Philosophical Strangler by Eric Flint, the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, and Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris.

After the meeting, we had a nice dinner at Waterloo Ice House.

— A. T. Campbell, III