The book has many joys, sense of place being one of the first. All those Malaysians and Singaporeans over at goodreads saying, in essence, THIS. I only know the place from chance remarks in other people's blogs, and tGB fills in the details: heat, humidity, green, dust, rain. Oh, and the social workings, the domestic life. I've read just enough Chinese novels to realize how the protagonists' lifestyle is both the same and different from the way things worked on the mainland-- looser, less Confucian, more cosmopolitan.
All this is good. But the icing on the cake is the genre. It's historical fiction with a mystery or two on the side and a romance or two as well, and mh well what to call it? Fantasy sounds wrong: supernatural sounds wrong. It's the belief system of the society presented as working the way it was thought to work. No really, there is a Hell, there are Judges there, and they're just as corrupt as the ones here. (Minor plot thread, btw.) So, an historical mystery novel with fantasy elements, then? Basically, Liz Williams done organically, not borrowed from someone else. Excellent.
And I totally misplaced the one name I thought I knew. Comes from Houshin Engi *and* Journey to the West: and isn't him.