Thursday, September 9, 2010
INSPECTOR SINGH INVESTIGATES by Shamini Flint
Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder by Shamini Flint is a police procedural. There is no "figuring the mystery out" before the last events occur.
That said, the book is a good book. It is especially interesting because of its geographic and cultural setting. Higher ups send Singh, a Singapore police detective, to Kuala Lumpur to protect the rights of a Singapore citizen accused of murder.
Actually, Singh's assignment is a kind of exile. The dogged, overweight policeman has fallen out of grace with higher ups. They are hoping he will fail so badly in his assignment that they can get rid of him forevermore.
And what an assignment it is! Kuala Lumpur police accuse the young Singaporian wife of a rich Kuala Lumpur businessman of murdering her husband. The couple was in the midst of a rancorous divorce. The man forced his young wife's hand by becoming a Moslem. That threw the whole case into the Syariah court, the Moslem religious court which supersedes state courts for Moslems. Moslem courts often award the children to the Moslem father over the non-Moslem mother.
Add to this the fact that the man's business involved destroying the Borneo rain forest and committing genocide, killing or murderously displacing a primitive tribe which lives there. And as if that weren't enough, the wealthy man stole his son's girlfriend, turned her into his mistress, and left his son bitter.
So, there were a lot of people motivated to kill this man. In fact, the author paints him in such a way that even I might have gotten in line to kill him. But the truth is, none of this gets in the way of the story.
The role of the police in the whole thing is to force events to unfold. And the unfolding of events leads to an exciting end in which, only late in the book, do we know for sure who the killer is and why he/she committed the murder.
I liked this book on several levels. It was a good story in its own right. The main character was stubborn and compassionate. The geographic and cultural setting fascinated me. And the book was well written.
So, I've found another one of those offbeat books of the sort I seem to groove on.
Sometimes it concerns me. My "to be read" list gets longer. I know I'll never get all the books on it read. But I will add more Inspector Singh novels to the mountain.