Thursday, March 03, 2011

A MOST PECULIAR MALAYSIAN MURDER: SHAMINI FLINT



I have just finished reading Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint.
Shamini Flint was a lawyer who worked with a prestigious international law firm in Singapore traveling extensively around Asia, before resigning to become a writer, stay-at-home mum, lecturer and environmental campaigner.
A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder is the first in a series in which Inspector Singh, a portly and sometimes grumpy Sikh police officer, travels round Asia solving crimes. The other books in the series are set in Bali [Indonesia], Singapore [Inspector Singh's home country], and Cambodia.

Sometimes blurbs and reviews give a slightly incorrect slant on a book. The review in the Guardian, quoted on Shamini's website begins...
'Down these mean streets a man must waddle'

On the back cover we read Inspector Singh 'travels throughout Asia busting crimes! Stop No 1: Malaysia'

I think this might give some potential readers the impression A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder is merely a light romp. In my opinion it is a topical book, that addresses many of the important cultural differences between Malaysia and Singapore, some of which may become more relevant to Europe in the future.

Singaporeans were always adding to the list of reasons each one kept to hand, in case they met a Malaysian, of why it was so much better on the island than the peninsula. They ranged from law and order to cleanliness, from clean government to good schools, and always ended up on the strength of the Singaporean economy. But in the end, the Malaysian would nod, as if to agree to the points made-then shrug to indicate that they probably wouldn't trade passports, not really.
And if pressed for a reason they would fall back on that old chestnut which seemed to capture everything that was wrong about Singapore-

-but your government bans chewing gum.

Chelsea Liew, a famous Singaporean model, has been arrested for the murder of her abusive and unfaithful ex-husband, Alan Lee, a man whose considerable wealth comes from the timber industry. Inspector Singh is sent by the Singapore authorities to ensure the investigation of his murder has been carried out correctly, and Chelsea Liew gets a fair trial. Chelsea and Alan had been involved in an acrimonious custody battle for their children, but Alan had taken a major step in winning that battle by converting to Islam, and this is regarded as Chelsea's misguided motive for killing him.

If they do that -well, then strictly as a matter of Islamic family law, the children should be brought up as Moslems...and by Moslems.

Inspector Singh believes she is innocent, perhaps he is influenced by her beauty, or by the fact there are a string of other suspects with good motives for murder.
Inspector Singh, with the young Malaysian police man Sergeant Shukor, begin to investigate those suspects, who include, Kian Min and Jasper, Alan's brothers, Marcus, his son, and Sharifah, his teenage mistress. Definitely enough suspects for a string of red herrings, sub plots and false trails to be laid before the dramatic finale.
The author takes us on a guided tour of the complexities of the position of minorities in the Muslim state of Malaysia, while we also learn about the environmentally damaging deforestation of protected areas in Borneo.
But those regular ingredients of the crime novel, greed, sexual jealousy, infidelity, spousal abuse, and revenge play a large part in an interesting first book in what promises to be a series with great scope for varied plots in some exotic locations.

5 Comments:

Blogger Maxine said...

I agree, Norman, I think this is a much better book than one might think from its title, cover and publicity angle. I think it is both readable and sincere. Your excellent review reminds me that I must read the next in the series - I've only read this one so far.

10:12 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks very much Maxine.
I have the 4th one set in Cambodia on order, because my future daughter-in-law spent seven months there working for a charity, therefore I have lots of photos to use with any review. ;o)

11:26 AM  
Blogger Dorte H said...

I have this on my shelf, but as I suspected it was NOT a light romp, I have kept it for a week when I am not recovering from a flu - or too much work. And though I like stories from other cultures, they usually demand more of the reader.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

This was a good read, and I also thank you for reminding me to read more books in the series.

The inspector is a very decent person; he skirts the law to do the right thing, like Inspector Montalbano of Sicily.

This book sent me to Google to learn about Malaysia and Singapore, the Indigenous peoples, cultures, rainforests and more. This is always a good thing.

However, the author did read the national security laws, as she has said, so that she didn't want to raise any suspicion of her writings. She is a lawyer, after all, and would think of this.

She also said that she became an environmentalist to kind of make up for her corporate legal life before that.

1:16 AM  
Anonymous Background Check said...

I think that was a great book. Surely ill find myself to a bookstore tomorrow to find one. thanks for sharing such a wonderful book.

8:51 AM  

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