Don’t let her sweet demeanor fool you: beneath the matronly manner is a steely sleuth.
At the popular Singapore cafe Aunty Lee’s Delights, part-owner Cherril looks forward anxiously to a reunion with her old friends Josephine DelaVega and Brian Wong. Also expected is Allison Fitzgerald, who’s hired a high-powered lawyer to sue the other three for breaking up her marriage. Josephine and Brian once ran an animal rescue group called Animal ReHomes, from which Allison adopted a difficult dog she later put down. Impaired by a twisted ankle, Aunty Lee nevertheless displays keen interest in the quartet’s reunion. But Allison never arrives because she’s dead in her hotel room. Moments after this news arrives, Allison’s sister, Valerie, shows up, totally unaware of her death, followed shortly by Inspector Salim, Aunty Lee’s friendly adversary in crime-solving. Salim may have a squad of detectives, but Aunty Lee has Nina, the faithful sidekick who plays Watson to her Holmes. Kindly and shrewdly, Aunty Lee offers to share her home with Valerie. Intimate details of Allison’s life flow easily, including her unhappy marriage to Mike Fitzgerald. Stirring the pot are Mark, Aunty Lee’s former drinks manager, and Selina, his gossipy wife. It turns out that Mike was in Singapore on the night of Allison’s death. More, he’s secretly engaged to Josephine. The plot is thickened by a second murder.
Aunty Lee’s third outing (Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials, 2013, etc.) has the structural virtues of an old-fashioned whodunit but adds a sassy comic edge.