For a while in my mid twenties I took a liking to a subgenre of fantasy called, among other things, Urban Fantasy, one of the leading proponents being the wonderful Charles De Lint.  The books were urban myths of magical beings living in small communities among regular human beings.  At somepoint something large and magical would happen that drove the story and at this point it often got more traditional with the sea, the desert or woodlands becoming central.  The books had a lot of charm but under an outer patina were far more traditional then they wanted to let on.

Jon Courtney Grimwood's "9tail fox" is the next step on from there.  9tail fox is sold as science fiction which is going to prove problematic for people who expect truth in advertising.  It's science fiction in the same way that Frankenstein is, one outre element is introduced into a largely realistic setting.  With Frankenstein it was the monster, with 9tail fox it is the lead character, Bobby Zha of the SFPD.  9tail fox is, in most respects, a traditional hardboiled detective story.  Bobby Zha, a man on the outs with his wife, his daughter and most of his colleagues, is murdered under strange circumstances.  As he dies he sees a 9tail fox, a mythical chinese creature, and, having died wakes up in another city in the body of another man, a man who has been in a coma since he was a child and is now very rich due to insurance payouts.  The remainder of the story is taken up with a voyage of self discovery as Zha, in his new body, tries to solve his own murder.  Zha inevitably is shown as the average maverick cop initially, good, honest and upstanding for those who cannot defend themselves.  It is only as he digs further into his own murder that you see Zha fleshed out as a character, you learn he was lousy at paperwork, he was on the take (in a small way), none of his colleagues liked or trusted him, he'd disappointed his family, let down his wife and daughter and could really only communicate with other outsiders like the homeless, the mentally ill and disaffected kids.  Only when he realises his time in his new body is possibly limited does he start to try and be a better human being.

As in many of the best modern detective stories the detection becomes almost incidental and the book becomes a character study of the protagonist, delving confidently into his psyche and taking a long hard look at the building blocks that make a man a human being.  The Russian gangsters, police corruption, illegal animal experimentation and the ultimate aim of that experimentation are only relevant in so far as they expose something important about Zha and change him fundamentally. 

The ending is touching without being cloying, fantastic without being fairytale, dramatic without being melodramatic.  It's not great literature but it certainly is a level or two above your average modern fantasyin both plot and execution.