I’ve babbled on about my issues with Malaysian writers before (nutshelled: I want them to be super good, but when they are, I immediately hate myself for not writing, too,) and with this book, I realized that those issues extend to Singaporean writers, as well. I think it might be due to the two countries sharing a Straits-culture, and engaging in a sibling-like rivalry, distinct from our relations with other close neighbours like Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. Anyway, I was extra sensitive to this book and my reactions towards it, but am fairly pleased with the outcome. Nothing like a book critic patting herself on the back for objectivity, no? 😛
Anyway, apart from the authenticity, I really enjoyed the complexity of the characters (with one notable exception: more on that later.) The book took a controversial subject and presented various realistic reactions to it, while grounding the narrative very firmly in a Singaporean society I recognized. Ovidia Yu writes with kindness and love in much the same way as her protagonist cooks one of her delectable meals.
However, I felt that the mystery itself was sloppily handled. Deductive leaps were made that non-omniscient characters could not have come up with: a standard problem with first-time mystery writing. And the denouement, while satisfactory from a Singaporean society viewpoint, was both obvious in whodunnit and extremely muddled in why. Of course the killer is the stereotypical Ugly Foreigner with the superiority complex. But his motivations didn’t make sense! Was he actually with the ex-gay movement? And why bother staging his uncle’s death via automobile at all?
I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, as it’s spiritual comfort to read of people “back home” every so often, but I do hope the mystery in it is an improvement on this one.