9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Decent Debut of a Sikh Sleuth,
This review is from: Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder: Number 1 in series (Paperback)
I've always been a sucker for crime novels set in distant lands featuring atypical protagonists, so this debut by a Singaporean author featuring a Sikh police detective seemed right up my alley. With his rumpled dress, porcine appetites (and corresponding belly), and disdain for the scientific method, Inspector Singh is an affront to his superiors. As a result, they have a tendency to throw him on difficult cases that take him far away from them. In this first in a series, he's sent to Kuala Lumpur to ensure that a Singaporean citizen accused of murdering her very wealthy Malaysian Chinese husband, gets fairly retreated by the Malaysian justice system.
Upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur, Singh is assigned an local police assistant/minder, and sets about trying to make sense of what the local cops think is an open and shut case of an abused woman snapping and killing her husband. Singh's method is to get to know the life of the victim intimately, and from this basis, form a list of suspects. In this case, it quickly becomes apparent that the murdered timber tycoon had any number of potential enemies from both his personal and professional life. Once Singh has his cast of suspects, he then tries to push their buttons, keep them off-balance, and generally provoke them into giving themselves away.
It's an engaging enough debut, with some local color but not nearly enough for my taste. The exception is a very interesting subplot involving the wife possibly losing custody of her children due to the dead husband's alleged confession to Islam. The interplay between civil and sharia law in Malaysia is drawn out nicely though this issue. There's also a decent expose of the seamy side of the timber industry and environmental degradation in the developing world. Ultimately, though, the star of the show is Inspector Singh, as chews away at the murder in a manner both dogged yet sly, somewhat in the vein of the old TV detective Columbo. He's a fun character, and while the writing isn't scintillating, the plotting and setting are enough for me to check out his further adventures in A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul.