Snake Agent (Detective Inspector Chen -1)

Snake Agent (Detective Inspector Chen #1)

The Detective Inspector Chen series by Liz Williams.

Genres and Sub-GenresEdit

Urban Fantasy / Noir UF / Police Procedural

  • Combines elements of Urban Fantasy, SF, Noir Thrillers & comedy

Series Description or Overview Edit

❖ Inspector Chen is in charge of Singapore's supernatural and mystical investigations, set in the near future. ~ Goodreads

❖ This series follows Inspector Chen, a mortal living in Singapore three, and a police inspector who tries to keep the peace while dealing with inhabitants of Heaven & Hell at the same time. The world created by Liz Williams is based on Chinese mythology & is a very crafty one to say the least. ~ Fantasy Book Critic

❖ Detective Inspector Chen is the Singapore Three police department's snake agent - the detective in charge of supernatural and mystical investigations. Chen has several problems: in addition to colleagues who don't trust him and his mystical ways, a patron goddess whom he has offended and a demonic wife who's tired of staying home alone, he's been paired with one of Hell's own vice officers, Seneschal Zhu Irzh, to investigate the illegal trade in souls. Political pressures both Earthly and otherworldly seek to block their investigations at every turn. As a plot involving both Singapore Three's industrial elite and Hell's own Ministry of Epidemics is revealed, it becomes apparent that the stakes are higher than anyone had previously suspected. ~ Goodreads | Snake Agent

Books in Series Edit

Detective Inspector Chen series:

  1. Snake Agent (2005)
  2. The Demon and the City (2006)
  3. Precious Dragon (2007)
  4. The Shadow Pavilion (2009)
  5. The Iron Khan (2010)

Shorts, AnthologiesEdit

  • "Insecticide" () — in "Snake Agent" special edition (Chen & Zhu)
  • "And Taxes" () — in "Shadow Pavilion" special edition (Chen)
  • "No Logo" () — in "The Demon and the City" special edition (Sergeant Ma, Zhu & Chen & Ma)
  • "Willow Pattern Plate" () — in "Precious Dragon" (Inari)
  • "Adventures in Ghost Trade" () — in "The Banquet of the Lords of Night and Other Stories" collection (Chen)
  • "The Man from the Ministry" () — in "The Banquet of the Lords of Night and Other Stories" collection (Tang, Goddess Kuan Hin)
  • The Banquet of the Lords of Night and Other Stories (2005) Short Story Collection

Fantasy Book Critic: “Inspector Chen Short Stories” by Liz Williams (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

World Building Edit

Setting Edit

Singapore Three sometime in the relatively near future

Locations: Heaven, Singapore, Beijing, Fan, Shaopeng, Pellucid Island Opera House, South China Sea, Paugeng, Night Harbor, Earth, Battery Road, Tevereya, Opera House, Ghenret, Earth, China, Precious Dragon, Senditreya, Beijing, Shadow Pavilion, Hell, India, Bollywood, realms of the Celestial, Hunting Lodge, Urumchi, Kashgar, Roc, Tibet

SciFi Elements: flat screens that you can pour out of a phial and which become like networked computers,

Supernatural Elements Edit

Demons, magic, reincarnation, Chinese gods, Heaven, Hell, In Between, Hindu gods, Celestial warrior, dragons, Feng Shui Practitioners’ Guild, , ,


Groups and Organizations:Edit

World Edit

❖ Combines Chinese mythology with a futuristic world. The world is something like modern Asia, only cities have been franchised, and Heaven and Hell are real stops on the reincarnation wheel. ~ forevermore

❖ The D.I. Chen books take place in Singapore Three, a fantastical port city where business and high technology exist along side magic and ancient religion. The walls between worlds are thin in Singapore Three, and Hell–the Chinese version of if–is only a slip away. ~ The Weekly Rot

❖ This universe, in which Heaven is not exactly as one prays to & Hell might not be that bad either, is a different one from the usual speculative fiction ones. In Williams' world Heaven and Hell operate as bureaucracies & both are as inept as the humans over whom they preside. ~ Fantasy Book Critic]

❖ The barriers between Heaven, Hell, and the “real” world are thin, and they all have to deal with each other. Hell is massively bureaucratic and structured with various ministries in charge of doing things to keep evil in the real world. However, there are certain rules they have to follow, and they can’t step on each others’ toes. Zhu Irzh is on the Vice Squad not to prevent and control Vice but to make sure that everything’s being done properly. Hell’s minions do have to watch their step so Heaven’s bureaucracy doesn’t get involved. ~ Curled up with a good Book

❖ Singapore 3, a mass produced spin-off city (like a McDonald’s or Borders but bigger) in China.


Detective Chen is the familiar world-weary but still hopeful police officer who does his best to help people. Williams took that and turned it sideways in a most enjoyable way. ~ forevermore

Chen is one of the only cops in Singapore Three who deals regularly with the celestial beings, and his colleagues tend to avoid him because he’s had to deal with Hell too often. Chen is married to a demon who has escaped from Hell because of an attempted forced marriage. He’s world-weary but definitely good at what he does. He’s on the outs with his goddess right now, which will make visiting Hell a bit tougher because he won’t have her protection. ~ Curled up with a good Book

❖ Detective Inspector Wei Chen is the 13th precinct’s Snake Agent, or the cop in charge of all things supernatural and mystical. DI Chen has dedicated his life to serving the forces of good, but things have gotten messy and gray areas have sprung up. For one, his wife Inari is a demon from Hell. ~ Bookslut

❖ Zhu Irzh is a wonderful creation, a demon with a few ethics; he’s not a “good” demon, but he wants to make sure everything runs smoothly and correctly. Chen and he form an interesting relationship of mutual respect and distrust, and their interplay is a lot of fun to read. ~ Curled up with a good Book

Sidekicks Edit

Characters Chart Edit

Characters What About
Chen Wei Detective inspector with the Singapore 3 police department. In charge of supernatural investigations.
Zhu Irzh representative of the Vice department of Hell partnering Chen in Singapore Three
Inari Chen's demon wife
Badger demonimal can also transform itself into a kettle
Ro Shi
Mrs Tang
Dao Yi
Tsin Tsi
Robin Yuan
Mhara celestial from Heaven has a soft spot for mankind & its sufferings
Jhai Tserai
Paravang Roche
Deveth Sardai
Kuan Yin
Paulent Go
Lord Hanuman Half Monkey half-man wisdom in his eyes
Lord Shiva Blue skinned God crescent moon on his forehead
Liz williams

Liz Williams


Liz Williams

British science fiction and fantasy author—and witchcraft supply shop proprietor—Liz Williams grew up in an unusual household. The daughter of a Gothic novelist and a stage magician, she thought nothing of the demonology books on the shelves at home. She also devoured science fiction and fantasy novels growing up, especially those written by science fiction Grand Master Jack Vance. It was no surprise that she would become a writer of stories in the supernatural and extraterrestrial realms.

Before taking on the literary world, Williams got her PhD in Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge and lived and worked in Kazakhstan from the mid-1990s until 2000. The author credits her travels as inspiration for her writing, as she was often thrown out of her comfort zone and into unfamiliar, eye-opening experiences. ~ The Open Road Integrated Media Blog > Liz Williams: Mysteries in the Underworld

Cover ArtistEdit

Publishing InformationEdit

  • Publisher: Night Shade Books,
  • Author Page: Night Shade Books
  • Bk-1: Paperback, 264 pages, Pub: July 1st 2006—ISBN: 1597800430
  • Bk-2: Paperback, 256 pages, Pub: May 1st 2007 by Night Shade—ISBN: 1597800473
  • Bk-3: Hardcover, 242 pages, Pub: June 1st 2007 by Night Shade—ISBN: 1597800821
  • Bk-4: Hardcover, 240 pages, Pub: May 1st 2008 by Night Shade—ISBN: 1597801224
  • Bk-5: Paperback, Cover art: Stephanie Pui-mun Law, 327 pages, Pub: January 11th 2011 by —ISBN: 1456409166
  • The Banquet of the Lords of Night: Hardcover, 189 pages, Pub: Aug 1st 2005 by Night Shade Books—ISBN: 1892389932

Book Cover Blurbs Edit

BOOK ONE BLURB—Snake Agent (2005): You were supposed to go to Heaven, but ended up in one of the many Chinese hells instead. Who you gonna call? Nobody, you're dead. Luckily, in future Singapore, Detective Chen is on the case. Specializing in supernatural crimes, Chen finds himself in hell teaming up with a demon cop to solve the mystery, return a lost soul to its rightful reward, and restore harmony between Heaven and Earth. ~ Fantastic Fiction

BOOK TWO BLURB—The Demon and the City (2006): The second Detective Inspector Chen novel (after Snake Agent) returns us to Singapore Three. A mysterious murder sends Chen and his demonic partner Zhu Irzh on the trail of a conspiracy between hell and one of the heavenly hosts. ~ The Demon and the City (Detective Inspector Chen, book 2) by Liz Williams

BOOK THREE BLURB—Precious Dragon (2007): In this, the third Detective Inspector Chen novel, Chen and Zhu are given a major assignment to escort an emissary from heaven on a diplomatic mission to hell. Zhu tries to dodge his demonic family's overtures, but ends up embroiled in hell's political intrigues. At the same time, a young boy born to ghostly parents in Hell is sent to live with his grandmother in Singapore Three. The boy, Precious Dragon, is being chased by Hell's most dangerous creatures and ends up being the key to unlock the mystery that is quickly spiraling out of control.Chen and Zhu find themselves in the middle of a struggle much bigger then they can fully comprehend, and when the dust finally settles, neither heaven nor hell will be the same. ~ Precious Dragon (Detective Inspector Chen, book 3) by Liz Williams

BOOK FOUR BLURB—The Shadow Pavilion (2009): The Snake Agent returns in The Shadow Pavilion, the fourth Detective Inspector Chen novel from Liz Williams! When Chen's partner, the demon Seneschal Zhu Irzh, disappears, along with Chen's wife Inari's guardian badger, Chen must enlist all of his allies and assets in order to locate them. From the strange streets of Singapore Three to the rough and tumble world of Bollywood, where money flows fast and emotions flare even faster; from the realms of the Celestial to the haunts of the Infernal and all the spaces in between, The Shadow Pavilion delivers the thrills, excitement, and near-future occult action fans have come to expect. ~ The Shadow Pavilion (Detective Inspector Chen, book 4) by Liz Williams

BOOK FIVE BLURB— The Iron Khan (2010): Being considered a friend to the Emperor of Heaven has its drawbacks—especially when you're Detective Inspector Chen and the Emperor needs assistance in finding the Book; an escaped, self-aware magical artifact with the power to alter the world. Tasked with retrieving the Book before it can alter reality, Chen crosses paths with his former partner, Zhu Irzh, who is in hot pursuit of the Iron Khan, an evil, homicidal immortal intent on conquering Asia by any means. While Chen and Zhu are otherwise occupied, Inari - Chen's demon wife - is whisked away by forces intent on revenge against Chen and ultimately, the Emperor of Heaven. The fantastical deserts of Western China and a mythical city of wonders serve as a backdrop for Chen, Zhu Irzh and Zhu's lover, Jhai Tserai, as they wage an intense, personal war to prevent their world suffering from a cataclysmic destruction. Liz Williams delivers an exotic tapestry of unique urban fantasy - rich with Asian mythology and interesting, fully-formed characters. From the quirky inclusion of a taciturn badger teapot, to the luxurious descriptions of Singapore Three, Williams crafts a solid and fantastical world like no other writer in the fantasy genre. Strong storytelling and unexpected plot twists are guaranteed to keep the reader intrigued - and longing for more. ~ The Iron Khan ~ FF

First Sentence Edit

Book #1: Hanging by his heels and twisting slowly in the draught that slipped beneath the crimson door, Detective Inspector Chen tried desperately to attract the demon's attention.

First Sentences Edit

Quotes Edit

Goodreads | Liz Williams Quotes (Author of Snake Agent)

Read AlikesEdit

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Awards Edit

British Fantasy Society (nominee)

Trivia Edit

~ ranked on Goodreads | Best Urban Fantasy Series (181 series)

Book Lists: 

~ More Goodreads | Lists That Contain Snake Agent (Detective Inspector Chen #1) by Liz Williams

Notes Edit

See Also Edit

External References Edit



Reviews, Articles:

The World, Characters, etc: 





Community, Fan Sites:

Gallery of Book Covers Edit

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