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9Tail Fox
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Gollancz, 326 pages

9Tail Fox
Jon Courtenay Grimwood
Jon Courtenay Grimwood was born in Malta, and grew up in Malta, England, the Far East and Norway. He has worked as a publisher and a journalist. His novels include neoAddix, Lucifer's Dragon, reMix and redRobe. He lives in London.

Jon Courtenay Grimwood Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Lucifer's Dragon
SF Site Review: Felaheen
SF Site Review: Effendi
SF Site Interview: Jon Courtenay Grimwood
SF Site Excerpt: Effendi
SF Site Excerpt: Pashazade
SF Site Review: Pashazade

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sandy Auden

There's something quietly dangerous about a Jon Courtenay Grimwood novel. On one hand they are reassuringly familiar; on the other hand, silent subliminals undulate through the chapters waiting for an unsuspecting reader.

On the reassuringly familiar side, 9Tail Fox is a murder mystery. Sergeant Bobby Zha works for the San Francisco Police Department and he's trying to find out who has murdered him. One minute he's round the back of a warehouse with his gun drawn, the next he's a coma patient waking up after years in a medical facility. And if that wasn't weird enough, now he's being haunted by a nine-tailed Celestial fox.

Foxes are another familiar aspect for fans of Grimwood's earlier Arabesk series, but this time it's a lot less prominent than its predecessor. And there's certainly a new detective, but his name is subtly familiar -- Bobby Zah rolls off the tongue with exactly the same rhythm as Ashraf Bey in Arabesk. Then there's Bobby himself who is, like Ashraf, fashionably stylish on the outside but very human on the inside.

It's this humanity that has you falling hopelessly for Bobby over the first few chapters. Grimwood gently shines a light in the nooks and crannies of his character's personality and Bobby comes to life -- he has never had vast amounts of money, he has always worked hard for a living, he has woman problems (both marital and parental), and he's concerned about not being able to live up to his legendary professional reputation.

And as you find out more about Bobby in those opening chapters, you find you know less and less about the plot. There are lots of little mysteries to be solved. Did the young girl kill the burglar? Where did the dead baby go? Who shot Bobby Zha and left the body at the back of the warehouse? Why is Bobby still alive?

Rippling under the surface of all these questions, the subliminals kick in through a series of deep themes. Guilt and identity issues lurk quietly, as do the consequences of our choices, both good and bad. There is implied comment about the obscenely rich Russians who criminally exploited the Soviet situation with little moral or legal backlash. And, sinking further, there's a look at the more spiritual considerations of life after death.

Then there's Grimwood's wonderfully vivid sense of location to be added to the mix. Generated by the author's personal visits to cities where his books are set, he consistently displays a rare talent for absorbing a city's atmosphere -- all the different aromas, all the quirks of architecture, all the foibles of the residents that form the character of location.

All of these aspects combine to create an immersion experience that works on several levels at the same. Rich and interesting, like all Grimwood novels, 9Tail Fox leaves a very unique after-image.

Copyright © 2006 Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.

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