An unlikely sleuth steps up in colonial Singapore to help catch a diabolical killer.
It’s 1936 when recent Mission School graduate Su Lin, who narrates in a fresh and slightly formal first person, is rescued from her Uncle Chen’s plans for an arranged marriage by Miss Vanessa Palin, her teacher and mentor. Miss Nessa intends to place Su Lin as an “assistant and housekeeper” to Chief Inspector Le Froy, but the unexpected death of Charity Byrne, the nanny in the household of Miss Nessa’s brother, Acting Governor Sir Henry Palin, changes the plan. Su Lin, sent to meet the grieving family, forms an immediate bond with Palin's daughter Dee-Dee, a "child-woman" who caught the fever at age 7 and never developed mentally beyond that age. Dee-Dee angrily confides her belief that her stepmother, Mary, killed the nanny, who fell from a balcony and broke her neck. Dee-Dee implores Su Lin to kill Mary before Mary murders her as well. Both Sir Henry and LeFroy duly take note, and Su Lin’s bond with Dee-Dee prompts the Palins to engage her immediately. Sir Henry is disturbed enough to prompt Le Froy to investigate, and Su Lin’s previous acquaintance with the inspector makes her a natural ally, a Watson to his Holmes. Her discovery that Charity was pregnant leads her to search for the father, a quest that’s obviously but ambiguously akin to the hunt for a possible killer, who claims another surprising victim before being unmasked.
Yu (Meddling and Murder, 2017, etc.) has concocted a delightful vintage whodunit bubbling with charm and an infectious curiosity about human nature.