Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Review: Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu

I have been reading more cozy mysteries lately and am particularly intrigued by those set in less familiar environs or peopled with less common characters. Ovidia Yu's Aunty Lee's Delights, set in Singapore, populated with characters from many different nationalities, and with an older, female, amateur sleuth fits that bill all the way around.

Rosie "Aunty" Lee is a wealthy widow. She keeps busy by running a cafe serving delicious homemade food during the day. On occasion, she will open the cafe for a wine dinner, cooking her "delights" and leaving the wine portion of the evening to be run by her stepson Mark and his wife Selina, called Silly-Nah by Aunty. As the story opens, newly weds discover an unidentified woman's body on the beach on Sentosa Island. Aunty Lee is intrigued by the murder and very curious about the identity of the woman. What she doesn't know, is just how close to home the investigation will hit. At the wine dinner that night, two women are missing: a friend of Selina's who had promised to help out with the evening and a young woman who is a family friend's daughter. Another young woman interrupts the evening looking for Selina's friend and desperately afraid that the unidentified body is that of the woman she's come to Singapore to see, the Lee's family friend's daughter. Aunty is determined to find out the fate of the two missing women and to uncover the secrets her wine dinner guests are clearly hiding. She doesn't obstruct the police but rather assists them when she can, using her own instincts and the connections her Filipino maid Nina has.

The mystery is culinarily rich and the glimpses into Singapore food and culture that Yu offers the reader are enticing. Her Aunty Lee is nosy but smart, a busybody with heart. She is both loyal and astute.  Perhaps because this is the first in a series, there are a lot of characters introduced, most of whom have the potential to be returning characters.  They, the secondary characters, are less fully fleshed out though, perhaps with the exception of Nina, and lean a little to the stereotypical side.  The mystery here is not so much in who the woman is but more in the motivation for killing her (and who the killer is, of course). The plot overall is a bit choppy and the coincidence in the end is a bit much but the book is generally appealing so it's forgivable. What is a bit harder to forgive is the uneven pacing, with the story being drawn out only to find a quick and easy wrap-up with a somewhat muddled denouement in the end. Pleasing enough as a way to spend a couple of hours, this won't set the world on fire but for anyone searching, like I was, for a different culture and different characters this might fit the bill.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts