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Literature / Detective Inspector Chen

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Detective Inspector Chen is the protagonist of a series of novels by Liz Williams, beginning with Snake Agent (2005).

The setting is The Future, some time after the supernatural creatures of Chinese Mythology began interacting with the mundane world. Detective Inspector Chen is responsible for investigating crimes with supernatural components.

This series provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The first novel, Snake Agent, is expanded from a short story titled "Adventures in the Ghost Trade" which was published in Interzone in 2000.
  • Angel Face, Demon Face: Inari, the wife of Detective Inspector Chen, is a half-human demon. While on earth or the near-earth levels of Hell, she looks mostly like a beautiful human woman. But when she descends into the lower levels of hell, she becomes more demonic in appearance, to the point of her fangs and forked tongue making it hard for her to speak. This is a subversion of the trope, because even though she becomes more demonic in appearance, she retains her sweet and gentle personality throughout.
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  • Celestial Bureaucracy: The afterlife is one of these, in accordance with Chinese mythology.
  • Devil's Job Offer: In The Demon and the City, one character ends up negotiating a cushy job in Hell's Celestial Bureaucracy upon death.
  • Humanity Is Infectious: Demonic vice cop Zhu Irzh has developed a conscience from being around people too much. In the scene where this is first mentioned, he describes it as if it were literally something infectious he'd caught off humanity, and claims that the only reason he hasn't had it seen to is that as a minor public servant his health insurance doesn't cover it.
  • Magic Mirror: There's a mirror in the afterlife that tells the souls of the dead what they are likely to be in the next life when they reincarnate.
  • Rerouted from Heaven: Snake Agent begins when a young woman scheduled to go to Heaven is photographed by a brothel in Hell. Turns out that she's not the only one, and the villain's plan involves doing it wholesale.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes:
    • Demonic vice cop Zhu Irzh has gold eyes.
    • One of their friends has yellow eyes when in natural lighting, but under fluorescent lights they turn gold. (And she wasn't wearing contacts.)
  • Tanuki: Inari's animal companion, a badger, is partly inspired by folktales that were recorded in English as being about badgers but were originally about tanuki.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Inari, Chen's partially demonic wife, has red sclera and black pupils.
  • Turn in Your Badge: Subverted in Snake Agent. About halfway through, Chen has a meeting with Da Chief, who tells him explicitly that he is not going to take Chen off the case, because he knows full well that Chen is the only person able and willing to handle it. The scene also features Chen uttering the words "Go to Hell, sir" — as a literal and truthful response to the question "What do you intend to do next?"
  • The Unmasqued World: The series is set at some point after the creatures of Chinese Mythology became public knowledge. There is official communication between the mundane government and the Celestial Bureaucracy.
  • Van Helsing Hate Crimes: An issue in Snake Agent.