About Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials by Ovidia Yu: Rosie “Aunty” Lee, the feisty widow and amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved home-cooking restaurant, is back in another delectable, witty mystery involving scandal and murder among the city’s elite.
Few know more about what goes on in Singapore than Aunty Lee. When a scandal over illegal organ donation makes news, she already has a list of suspects. There’s no time to snoop, though—Aunty Lee’s Delights is catering a brunch for local socialites Henry and Mabel Sung. Rumor has it that the Sungs’ fortune is in trouble, and Aunty Lee wonders if the gossip is true. But soon after arriving at the Sungs,’ her curiosity turns to suspicion. Why is the guesthouse in the garden locked up—and what’s inside? Where is the missing guest of honor? Then Mabel Sung and her son, Leonard, are found dead. The authorities blame it on Aunty Lee’s special stewed chicken with buah keluak, a local black nut that can be poisonous if cooked improperly. She’s certain the deaths are murder—and that they’re somehow linked to the organ donor scandal. To save her business and her reputation, she’s got to prove it—and unmask a dangerous killer.
My two centsAsian heroines are few and far in between, particularly in the cozy mystery genre. When I read the first installment of Aunty Lee's Delights, I was instantly charmed (go read my review of Book 1 and see why I liked it so much). Naturally when I heard that book 2 was available, I wanted in!
In this mystery, Aunty Lee stumbles upon murder when she caters brunch for the Sungs. At their especial request, she serves up buah keluak, a Peranakan specialty of chicken prepared with the potentially poisonous black fruit (extreme eating, think fugu). Did Aunty Lee unwittingly poison her own customer as the police are wont to believe?
Of course not! Armed with her old lady nosiness, her trusty sidekick Nina, her rather convenient police connections, and lots of good homecooked Peranakan food, Aunty Lee sets out to find the true murderer.
This unearths a curious mix: a conspiracy involving the black market for organs and human trafficking among Singapore's well heeled and influential, a touching love story, desperation for a better life and generally insightful observations of human motivations. Yu's new novel once again introduces a Western audience to better understand the fantastic characterizations of various classes within Singapore society, of the role of nosy old women and the balm that is food in Asian cultures.
Verdict: Another good foodie mystery set in Singapore featuring the nosy Aunty Lee. The concept is the strength of this series. I loved this and will continue to be on the look out for all other books in the Aunty Lee series.
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Paperback: 384 pages, Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks, Original edition (September 30, 2014)