After reading Stella Kon’s The Scholar & the Dragon, I absolutely fell in love with Peranakan culture and the lives and history of oldtime Singapore, back when it was still considered part of the Straits Settlements. Bieng part Peranakan on my mum’s side, this part of my history has always intrigued me and combining this with a delicious mystery was enough to get me started!
Characters: Am a very big fan of strong, distinct characters and Woon does not disappoint here. The main characters Dennis Chiang and Clarence d’Almeida, the latter a Straits Chinese version of Poirot, were very interesting characters. Chiang served as a student and understudy of d’Almeida, constantly assisting him in solving various criminal cases.
Structure of the book: The book is separated into several different stories, short stories or mysteries that the characters get involved in. So this means that the reader doesn’t have to sit through long, winding pages to get to the suspense. It’s all very succinct and solved in a realistic timeframe.
The mysteries: The critical bit about books in this genre is that the mystery has to be intriguing enough. There has to be enough suspense, with the audience being left little clues to figure things out on their own, but also not too challenging that their interest is lost. The mystery, to me, has to be “worth it” as well. There needs to be a reason why these characters are expending so much time and effort solving all these puzzles.
Fortunately, the puzzles here are interesting and gripping enough, they constantly left me wondering what was going to happen next. There were lots of plot twists as well and I never felt like I could really figure out who the real suspects were before they were solved. Very reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s novels!
The setting/historical description: As someone who is really fascinated with the history of the Straits Settlements at the turn of the 20th century, I found that the descriptions of people’s way of life, customs, behaviour as well as the city environment to be very on-point. The author just made everything come to life with this vivid descriptions of the people and the places the characters went to. It just makes me feel like I’m right there with the characters as they go about town.
What didn’t work:
Honestly, there was nothing that did not work for me. I loved this first book, couldn’t put it down and look forward to the others!