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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu

Aunty Lee's Delights (Singaporean Mystery #1)Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jacket Blurb: After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could easily have become one of Singapore's "tai tai," an idle rich lady devoted to mah-jongg and luxury shopping. Instead she threw herself into building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean home cooking is graciously served to locals and tourists alike. But when a body is found in one of Singapore's beautiful tourist havens, and when one of her wealthy guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two are likely connected.

The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee's henpecked stepson Mark, his social-climbing wife Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit-billed at first as a pleasure cruise-may mask a deeper purpose. Investigating the murder is rookie Police Commissioner Raja, who quickly discovers that the savvy and well-connected Aunty Lee can track down clues even better than local law enforcement.

Wise, witty and unusually charming, Aunty Lee's Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship and home cooking in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities co-exist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly results.

This one came recommended through a friend and I enjoyed it.

Set in Singapore, and revolving around the widowed Rose Lee's (Aunty Lee's) restaurant, the book is a mystery and a culinary exploration combined with little bits of wisdom and observations on people.

This had the feel of a cozy but it had darker undertones than a cozy usually does by addressing social issues of homosexuality in Singapore and Australia.  For a first mystery taking on this kind of topic, I thought the author handled multiple aspects with a deft pen.

I have two complaints with the book: one: there are a few to many sub-characters.  The daughter-in-law Selina (Silly-nah to Aunty Lee) and her husband Mark, the Australian with his own agenda, the Husband/Wife Australians on tour, the American, the disappearing maid, Aunty Lee's personal help Nina, the various police officers, the deceased girls and I know I'm missing a few.  I confess to getting people mixed up more than once. 

Two: everyone has English names.  Even the Singaporean's.  I'm not sure if this was intentional, or if people from Singapore Anglicize their names?  Or was this something the publisher did to make the book more palatable to Western readers?  The use of English names tended to bounce me out of the story and setting. 

Overall, recommended. 

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