A possible poisoning on the job
doesn't just pique Aunty Lee's interest, but becomes a matter of professional
life and death.
A handful of crime-related newspaper articles establishes a creepy pulse for the story that follows. Plump “supercook” Aunty Lee bustles to prepare for a big catering job with her maid, Nina, and her new partner, Cherril, who plans to take over and expand Aunty Lee's wine sideline if her stuffy husband, Mycroft, permits it. Meanwhile, the atmosphere at Sung Law, whose celebration Aunty Lee is catering, is far from festive. CEO Mabel Sung requires her daughter, Sharon, who's just made partner, to address her as Mrs. Sung, not “Mum.” Mabel dotes on her son, Leonard, who's mentally impaired after years of drug abuse. It's Henry, the father of the two, who offers the most hands-on help to Aunty Lee. A controversial menu item is the chicken stew buah keluak, made with seeds that are poisonous if improperly prepared. When Mabel and Lennie are late coming downstairs, tongues wag, and ambitious secretary GraceFaith goes to check on them. She finds them both dead, shells from the buah keluak all over the floor. Was their last meal an act of compassion by the controlling Mabel, or were they murdered by Aunty Lee's spicy, dicey dish? Curiosity would prompt Aunty Lee to probe anyway, but the threat to her livelihood makes her sleuthing a necessity, even if she ruffles the feathers of courtly Inspector Salim Mawar.
This delicious sophomore entry in Yu's sassy series (Aunty Lee's Delights, 2013) has the quaint accessibility, colorful characters and quotidian detail of a traditional cozy but also a slyly bracing edge.