Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu

The blurb:
Rosie “Aunty” Lee, the feisty widow, amateur sleuth, and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved home cooking restaurant, is back in another delectable, witty mystery involving scandal and murder among the city’s elite.
Few know more about what goes on in Singapore than Aunty Lee. When a scandal over illegal organ donation involving prominent citizens makes news, she already has a list of suspects. There’s no time to snoop, though—Aunty Lee’s Delights is catering a brunch for local socialites Henry and Mabel Sung at their opulent house.
Rumor has it that the Sung’s fortune is in trouble, and Aunty Lee wonders if the gossip is true. But soon after arriving at the Sung’s house, her curiosity turns to suspicion. Why is a storage house she discovers locked? What is the couple arguing about behind closed doors? Where is the guest of honor who never showed up?
Then, Mabel Sung and her son Leonard are found dead. The authorities blame it on Aunty Lee’s special stewed chicken with buah keluak, a local black nut that can be poisonous if cooked improperly. Aunty Lee has never carelessly prepared a dish. She’s certain the deaths are murder—and that they’re somehow linked to the organ donor scandal.
To save her business and her reputation, she’s got to prove it—and unmask a dangerous killer whose next victim may just be Aunty Lee.

I'd read Ovidia Yu's first Aunty Lee mystery and immediately fell in love with the cast of characters in her Singaporean mystery series.

We have Aunty Lee, a wealthy Tai Tai, widow and second wife of a wealthy Chinese merchant. Her stepson and daughter-in-law are annoyingly mercenary and quite crass with their requests for money and advances on their inheritance. Aunty Lee's patience and kindness towards them make her a sympathetic character. But Aunty Lee's generosity come through in other ways - the way that she treats her Filipina assistant, Nina, and the people that come to her restaurant. In many ways, Aunty Lee reminds me of Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple - she understands what makes people tick, she's always willing to help out, she's recognized by all as a bit of a busybody.

The Aunty Lee series also makes good use of Singapore as a location - for those of us who haven't visited Singapore in years, it's fun to read about the food, the culture, and the location.

While Ovidia Yu's murder mysteries aren't as complex as Agatha Christie's, Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials is a fun read and a satisfying second novel in the series. I'm looking forward to the next installment of the Aunty Lee books.

  • ISBN-10: 0062338323 - Paperback $14.00
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (September 30, 2014), 384 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

About the Author:
Ovidia Yu is one of Singapore's best-known and most acclaimed writers. She has had more than thirty plays produced and is also the author of a number of mysteries. She received a Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Iowa's International Writers Program and has been a writing fellow at the National University of Singapore.

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