The Demon and the City (2006)

The plot of the second Inspector Chen novel goes like this: In Chen’s absence Zhu Irzh has to solve a murder case, and it looks like that this time someone from Heaven is involved.

The notable thing about the second Inspector Chen novel is his absence for most of the time. Calling it a Zhu Irzh novel wouldn’t be wrong. Like the first one the begin is a bit dry, but as soon as the plot began to move seriously, I was hooked. There were some nice bits which gave the impression that the afterlife is spatially bound to specific regions of belief. If you die in China, you get into the Chinese version of Heaven and Hell. I’m not sure if that’s true or if I misread that (where do tourists from other countries end when they accidentally die in their holidays, even if they are from a completely different cultural and religious background, I wonder).

Heaven and it’s people are depicted as aloof from Earth’s people and thinking, while Hell, despite being mostly evil, takes an interest in humans. Heaven isn’t a better afterlife, just a place where some few chosen go who had the luck to be either saints or die as innocent children. The rest can’t enter, like the people who are too good for Hell but not good enough for Heaven, and thus are punished to dwell forever in the region between both. Like the dowser who knows that he won’t go to Heaven because deep down he never believed that people are good, only mechanically following his religion, Heaven looks evil not by being actively evil, but by not being actively good. When the dowser in the end finds out that Hell isn’t that bad, I remembered Heinlein’s Job: A Comedy of Justice. Heaven is not all that it’s cracked up to be.