I don't ordinarily start my reviews with the blurb from the back cover, but in this case I couldn't help myself:
Inspector Singh is in a bad mood. He's been sent from his home in Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to solve a murder that has him stumped. Chelsea Liew - the famous Singaporean model - is on death row for the murder of her ex-husband. She swears she didn't do it, he thinks she didn't do it, but no matter how hard he tries to get to the bottom of things, he still arrives back at the same place - that Chelsea's husband was shot at point blank range, and that Chelsea had the best motivation to pull the trigger: he was taking her kids away from her. Now Inspector Singh must pull out all the stops to crack a crime that could potentially free a beautiful and innocent woman and reunite a mother with her children. There's just one problem - the Malaysian police refuse to play ball.Shamini Flint's A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder is one of the more unique modern-day murder mysteries that I have read.
I will also go out on a limb and say that Inspector Singh is one of the most unique fictitious detectives I have ever had the joy to read. He is essentially an unpopular grumpy middle-aged police officer sent from his home in Singapore to investigate a murder in Malaysia where the prime suspect is already in custody.
Despite the obstacles in his way, not least of which is his excessive weight in the tropical heat of Malaysia, he slowly but surely investigates the murder in an attempt to clear the name of the prime suspect Chelsea Liew who is accused of killing her husband.
Chelsea Liew is a Singaporean national, who married a Malaysian business tycoon Alan Lee many years before but whose marriage to her husband is going through the family law courts as he attempts to divorce her and take permanent custody of their children. The Lee family business comes from logging the forests in nearby countries. Inspector Singh's investigations lead him into the murky world of the logging industry and the atrocities such companies commit.
What I loved most about this book was not just the plot (which was definitely a page turner). In A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, Shamini Flint effectively evokes the feel of the city and the characters. I felt hot and sweaty as I read Inspector Singh walk through the hot and dusty streets of Kualar Lumpur, and felt for Chelsea Liew's son when he discovered his fathers betrayal.
Flint also provides us with an insight into Malaysian culture and religion and how these issues permeate the every day lives (and the legal system) of its people. Although the book is a fun and easy read, Flint has managed to weave in amoungst the plot important religious and environmental issues that in the Western world we otherwise wouldn't give a lot of thought too.
A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder is the first in a series and I can't wait to read of Inspector Singh's adventures.
Do you think that a light-hearted detective fiction book can ever really effectively blend a fascinating plot with religious and cultural themes to create a great story?