Tuesday, June 8, 2010

THE SINGAPORE SCHOOL OF VILLAINY by Shamini Flint (Guest Review)

Given the very positive response to the first ever guest post on Crime Watch (Rosemary Brooks reporting on the Murder They Wrote event in Wellington) on 31 May, I've decided to include more guest posts in future.

The whole point of starting Crime Watch last August was to provide a good resource for those interested in crime/thriller fiction, and in particular some information and comment that either wasn't (readily) available elsewhere, or bringing together different strands in one place to provide some value for readers - a bit of a one-stop shop (with links to other great sources of information), especially when it comes to Kiwi crime writing. Hopefully I've managed to do some of that so far, with more to come in future.

I've decided to introduce 'Guest Reviews' on Crime Watch as well - something that could grow over time. As well as including my own reviews, or links to my own or others' relevant reviews published elsewhere, moving forward there will also be some guest reviewers writing crime and thriller fiction reviews specifically for Crime Watch. If you would like to contribute such a review, please let me know.

There may also be a few changes to the layout of the blog in the coming weeks as I try a few things to make it a little more readable, and some of the great archived information a little more accessible or obvious/easy to find, etc. So keep an eye out for that, and feel free to give me any feedback or suggestions.

To kick things off, today we have a guest review from Sarah Gumbley, an Auckland-based book reviewer. Sarah tends to prefer literary fiction, biographies, and other non-fiction works, but she has also broadened her reading lately to include some crime fiction. She has also reviewed for Good Reading, NZLawyer, and Scoop Review of Books in the past.


Inspector Singh Investigates: The Singapore School of Villainy
Shamini Flint (Piatkus Fiction, 2010)

Reviewed by Sarah Gumbley

The loveable Sikh, Inspector Singh is back once again. The third novel in Flint’s addictive series lives up to the promise showed in the earlier two, following murders, set first in Bali and then in Malaysia. This time Flint not only sets her novel in her home of Singapore, but also bases the plot around a group of lawyers working in an international law firm. No doubt, it is inspired by her ten years experience as a lawyer at Linklaters, the international firm which advises businesses and public entities on transactional and litigation matters.

THE SINGAPORE SCHOOL OF VILLAINY begins with a shocking murder, committed at the law firm, Hutchinson & Rice. One of the senior partners, Mark Thompson, is found bludgeoned to death in his office with his expensive paperweight, just before he is to hold a meeting with the other partners to make a mysterious announcement.

The overweight Inspector in his large turban and sneakers is called in to investigate. Unlike his previous cases, this time he has the full support of the force, and all the resources he could want. Singh makes the most of it, revelling in the help like a diva preparing for a stage show. But despite all the assistance, this is no easy case, with a bevy of potential killers to pick from. Could the murder have been committed by the victim’s unhappy Philippine wife, who stands to inherit a large life insurance sum, or perhaps his bitter ex-wife, still fuming over the divorce? Then there’s the partners in the law firm, all hiding their own secrets, not least of which is the involvement in insider trading.

The real genius of Flint’s writing is that she combines ease of reading with a back drop of important current issues. Her book is a light, fun and addictive story yet still manages to explore the existence of Singapore’s archaic laws, the heady lifestyle of expats in the city, and the tensions between Singaporeans of Asian and Indian descent. Good authors can either write a book that is clear and easy to read, or write a book exploring current issues, but the best thing about Flint is she can do both so effortlessly it’s easy not to notice.

Flint is churning this series out at a surprisingly fast pace (the first in the series was published in New Zealand this time last year). Along with her collection of children’s books, her role as a mother and wife, her time spent lecturing at universities and her involvement in environmental activism, Flint must be a busy woman. No doubt the long hours she spent as a lawyer, have set her up for all this hard work as an author.

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So, what do you think of Sarah's review? Do you like the Guest Reviews addition to Crime Watch? Have you read Shamini Flint's work? What do you think of Inspector Singh?

Thoughts and comments welcome.

3 comments:

  1. Craig - Thanks for introducing Guest Reviews. I really do like the idea of getting several different viewpoints on books, and this is an excelent way to do it.

    Shamini - Thanks for this fine review. The Inspector Singh series is, as you say, light, but not afraid of serious issues, and I like that about it.

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  2. Craig this was an excellent idea and Sarah Gumbley's review was a nice choice. I do have Inspector Singh series in my TBR list and really appreciate this post. Thanks

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  3. This is a wonderful series, and I think Sarah Gumbley's review is a very accurate appraisal of the book.

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