Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu

William Morrow, 288 pages, $14.99

If you like mysteries with a strong food element, Aunty Lee's Delights is for you. This series debut is set in Singapore and stars Aunty Lee, a well-off, widowed flavor maven and owner of a restaurant,

Rosie Lee doesn't have to work but, at the same time, she can't not work. People come from near and far to enjoy her Singaporean/Peranakan food. Were you to work from one of her recipes, it's doubtful you would achieve the same quality of taste because there are so many variables that only a true finely-tuned palate can notice and know how to adjust for that dish at that time. Whew!

Plus Aunty Lee loves people and she uses reason, observation, and intuition to understand them. Singaporean author Ovidia Lee says that Agatha Christie was an early heroine, and it's easy to see the influence.

Aunty Lee is doing her stepson a favor by providing the dine part for his fledgling wine/dine club. It's a strange gathering of locals and tourists of all ethnic and cultural flavors that night. Aunty Lee wants nothing more than to talk about the dead body of a woman that has washed up on a nearby beach. Too bad it wasn't Selina ("Silly-nah," as Aunty Lee names her), her stepson's wife, a supercilious, ambitious, vacuous woman who looks down on Aunty Lee, but not her money. (Not that Aunty Lee would wish ill on anyone!)

When the body is finally determined to have something to do with the club, Aunty Lee goes into cooking overdrive.

I enjoyed the look into the Singaporean food and varied cultural background. The story got a little foggy sometimes (who is where in what room in the hospital and how did who get into the pantry closet when?), so that was a distraction. Aunty Lee has the potential to become the next Dr. Siri (of Colin Cotterill's great series), but she's not there yet.

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