Urban cyber punk; noir, alternate reality, sci fi, fantasy, Asian lore, thriller, Christian religious tropes, ghosts, demons, detective mystery, mixed marriages, goddesses. Yep. I think I got it all laid out for you.
Detective Inspector Chen Wei, is with the Paranormal Department of the Singapore Three Police. In a near future world, the cities of China are franchised, and basically crowded and bleak. Detective Chen works with Hell. However,
much of Chen’s work was essentially bureaucratic with the occasional murder thrown in, and though Inari [his wife] knew that he conversed with spirits and demons on a daily basis, this was generally done by e-mail or over the phone.
His wife is a demon whom he rescued from Hell. OK, part demon. It turns out her father was a human, and she was betrothed to a truly disgusting lower bureaucrat working for the Ministry of Epidemics.
Detective Chen meets up with Seneschal Zhu Irzh, a vice cop from Hell, with whom he teams up as they search for the spirit of a missing young girl. At the moment, Zhu Irzh is on special assignment to Hell’s First Lord of Banking, head of the Ministry of Wealth.
There is absolutely wonderful world-building in this book. We are thoroughly immersed in Singapore Three as Chen, his partner Ma (who is none too happy about the paranormal aspects and is basically afraid of Chen and his magic), and the demon hunter brought in on special assignment, and then we learn all about Hell and its several environs. One of the things that makes it Hell is the bureaucracy, which if anything is worse than in the World. One thing Chen knew was that dealing with Hell was all about power games. He had been there a number of times on assignment and had documents permitting him access and return.
Chen’s personal mentor is the goddess Kuan Yin, a manifestation of the Buddha. Chen operates under her protection, and tries to live his life by her guiding precepts.
The plot revolves around the plan of Hell’s Ministry of Epidemics to devise a plague which will produce lots of blood and virgin young women in order for them to make a potion which will permit the residents of Hell access to Heaven.
Snake Agent is the first of a multiple volume series. It’s title comes from his decision to adopt a disguise in order to search through Hell for the missing girl. Being undercover is called being a snake agent by the vice squad. The author is a British sci fi writer, and her first two books, not part of the Detective Chen series, were nominated for the Philip K. Dick award.