Book three of the Aunty Lee mysteries
By Ovidia Yu
Available now from William Morrow (Harper Collins)
I have not read the first two Aunty Lee mysteries, but Ovidia Yu does a thorough job of catching new readers up to the cast and setting. AUNTY LEE'S CHILLED REVENGE is loaded with details about Singaporean culture, including the food, attitudes toward family and marriage, and perception of immigrants. I don't know how much of this information was familiar to readers of the first two books, but I found it fascinating.
Aunty Lee is a nosy old lady in the vein of Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher. Her restaurant is very successful, with her biggest complaint being either her employee trying to monetize it further or an in-law trying to take it over far before Aunty Lee is ready to hand over the reins. A recent foot injury set her back, but she's ready to start snooping again. Especially since the perfect situation fell in her lap: three old friends met up in her restaurant to speak to the woman planning to sue them when news arrived of the woman's death.
Allison Love was an ex-pat driven from the country by cyberbulling. She'd come back for monetary revenge, but now all that is left is three people with strong motives and a sister who needs a place to stay. And of course Aunty Lee is willing to take her in, both out of kindness and a desire to get closer to the case.
I figured out part of the solution before the end, but didn't solve the entire mystery because I thought that was it. I think it was clever of Yu to make half of the mystery more obvious than the other. I also liked how Yu treated her characters with equanimity. Through Aunty Lee's eyes, even the most obnoxious characters are judged with mercy. Aunty Lee tries not to attribute malice, even as she seeks it out.
I sometimes found that AUNTY LEE'S CHILLED REVENGE read more like a travelogue than a mystery novel, but I didn't entirely mind that feature. This is a wonderful read for anyone who likes old ladies who are just as clever as they should be.