9 Tail Fox
By John Courtenay Grimwood
First Published: 2005
Cover Art By Jon Foster
Review © 2014 by Stephen Roof
Genre: Crime fiction, Mystery, Noir, Science Fiction, Fantasy
9 Tail Fox by Jon Courtenay Grimwood is a mostly noir crime fiction novel with a little bit of added science fiction/fantasy. It has a unique premise that adds a twist to the basic detective novel. After a cop realizes he is dying and was set up to be murdered, he wakes up in someone else’s body that’s been in a coma for years. Now he has the chance to solve the most important murder of his career, his own.
The unusual premise for this novel worked well in my opinion. You basically have a gritty detective novel where the detective has a big advantage in that he knows more about the victim than anyone else and has a lot of inside information in regards to everyone the victim knew. Another important aspect of this novel is that the main character is not necessarily a likeable guy. In fact, the more he talks with his family and acquaintances from the position of an outside investigator, the more he realizes how poorly he treated many of the people that were close to him. This does not make him a very likable protagonist although he does seems to grow into a better person as the novel progresses which may make him grow on the reader.
The writing and characterizations are generally excellent. The cast of characters ends up being quite large but all come across as being very realistic with plenty of flaws. The writing can be a bit hard to follow at times as it jumps around with a few flashbacks that don’t necessarily seem connected to anything until later. The reader is tasked to be patient as little bits of knowledge are slowly accumulated and connections gradually come together. In regards to the science fiction/fantasy portion of the novel, there really is very little of either, just enough to enable the premise.
I highly recommend 9 Tail Fox for a high quality noir detective novel with a thought-provoking twist. If you’re looking for a lot of science fiction or fantasy elements, this is not the right novel. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a gritty novel with surprisingly realistic detective work that requires more thought from the reader than most, 9 Tail Fox delivers the goods.