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Friday, May 15, 2015

Aunty Lee's Deadly Delights by Ovidia Yu

Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials (Singaporean Mystery #2)Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket 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.

Book two in the Aunty Lee series. 

Aunty Lee, Cherril and Nina are prepping for a catered event at the home of the Sung's at the behest of Mable Sung in celebration of Susan Sung's elevation to partner in the Sung Law firm.  Aunty Lee's sharp eyes note something is amiss at the party - there is unexplained tension between Henry Sung and Mable, Susan Sung is late to her own party, and an a uninvited guest attempt to break in.  Then the worst of all possible things, Mable and her son die after eating one of Aunty Lee's traditional dishes. Aunty Lee and her restaurant are shut down under suspicion of food poisoning.

This book, while enjoyable, lacked some of the charm that drew me through the first one.  The life observations were less, it was perhaps an even darker aspect to the book as relates to homosexuals in Singapore, and the theme of organ trafficking and to what lengths a person would go to to get a healthy organ. 

I also think there were too many threads and characters drifting about, which gave the book an almost cluttered feel.  There was the disappearance/suicide couple at the start; the Sung family dynamics (four of them), GraceFaith the secretary and her ambitions, Henry Sung's mistress, Dr. Edward Yong, WenYu the Chinese lady, the Police Commissioner , Detective Salim, Sergent Pashnal, Nina, Cherril and, well, Auntie Lee herself.  I'm sure I'm missing a couple of people.   

Plot-wise, the food poisoning aspect came across a bit thin.  The party was in full swing, people have been eating for a while, and while two people die, nobody else has any symptoms.  Add to that, shortly after the Police Commissioner is "suddenly" inundated with complaints about Aunty Lee's Delights restaurants and sanitation.  If that doesn't scream "suspicious" I don't know what would. 

I noted this complaint in the previous book review, how everyone's names are English.  I stand by that criticism here - I suspect that the author was advised to change names to accommodate English readers. 

Overall, a decent book with a few items I took issue with. If a third book came out, I would probably read it.

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