Inspector Singh – Indian origin, Singaporean resident – is a new entrant in my literary life, and I must say, a very welcome one. I was recently introduced to him in this, the fifth of a series of murder mysteries by Shamini Flint, where the redoubtable, rotund, wheezy inspector travels Asia solving crimes.
In this particular installment, Singh and his wife travel to Mumbai for a wedding in her family. Unfortunately, the bride-to-be disappears practically on the eve of the wedding. Soon after, a corpse is found and identified, and Singh (and his wife) are thrown into a murder investigation revealing deep family tensions and drama. Did Ashu Kaur commit suicide to avoid an arranged marriage? Was she killed for dishonouring her family by falling in love outside the community? And what does all this have to do with dancing rats?
While this isn’t a murder mystery of the same complexity as say Sayers or Christie (without revealing too much, I can say that complicated alibis are not integral to the plot), that certainly doesn’t detract from the overall entertainment value.
Flint (through Inspector Singh) has a wry sense of humour:
Inspector Singh was not a senior policeman for no reason… He was quite sure he had stumbled upon some family crisis.. Whatever the root cause, and it was usually trivial, matters would inevitably deteriorate into tears, raised voices and a failure to serve meals on time.”
“‘Where are we?’ he asked, nonplussed by the length of time spent on crowded roads without lane markings that seemed to allow for seven vehicles abreast.
‘North of Santa Cruz,’ explained Kuldeep.
Singh looked out over the usual expanse of rust-coloured shanties draped at irregular intervals in the ubiquitous bright blue tarpaulins. It didn’t look like California.
Another reviewer likens Inspector Singh to Precious Ramotswe. While they are both equally compelling, to my mind the Inspector is somehow more endearing because of his flaws – his acerbic tendencies, his constant feuding with his wife and superior, Inspector Chen, his inability to quit smoking and his almost Nero-Wolfe like laziness.
Though Flint occasionally runs the risk of creating caricatures, rather than characters – ACP Patel, with his mangled English and Indian head waggle is a case in point – in general, her character portrayals and ear for conversation sound true to life. Equally compelling are her descriptions of India, as seen through the eyes of Inspector Singh; a non-resident Indian herself, she often uses him as a mouthpiece for sometimes insightful observations on Indian society and its many inconsistencies. And yet she, and Singh, do this is a voice that is both affectionate and exasperated.
Having discovered Inspector Singh in his fifth outing to date, I’m definitely going in search of his earlier Asian adventures.
Maya always has three books going at the same time - a different book for every mood. She loves exploring new authors, but every now and then she sinks back into the comfort of old favourites like murder mysteries and Regency romances. A corporate butterfly, Maya lives and works in Bangalore, India.
Latest posts by Maya Chandrasekaran (see all)
- The Hope Factory (Lavanya Sankaran) - May 20, 2013
- Miss Timmins’ School for Girls (Nayana Currimbhoy) - February 5, 2013
- Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) - December 23, 2012