Inspector Singh is something of an annoyance to his superiors and his comrades in the Singapore police. He is opinionated, stubborn, and somewhat disrespectful of authority (insofar as anyone can be disrespectful of authority in Singapore) so when it is learned that a woman from the city-state is accused of murder in Kuala Lumpur, it makes sense to send Singh to a place where he can annoy others for awhile.
The woman destined to be on death row is Chelsea Liew, a former model with one of the most recognizable faces in southeast Asia. She is accused of killing her husband, Alan Lee, a man no one was going to miss. Alan Lee was the director of the family timber business, a highly successful family enterprise that had made the family very wealthy. Alan and Chelsea had married in a highly publicized ceremony that had conferred the status of royalty on the couple. But, behind closed doors, Alan was guilty of spousal abuse, he was a philanderer, and he was involved in a number of nefarious business schemes that did nothing to enhance the name of Lee in Malay society.
When Chelsea decides to divorce Alan, she isn’t prepared for the degree to which he will go to ensure that he gets sole custody of their sons. He converts to Islam and declares his children to be Muslims as well, guaranteeing that Chelsea will have no contact with them.
Alan dies at the hands of someone who knew him well enough to get past his bodyguards. After publicly swearing that she would kill him for taking her children, Chelsea is the immediate front runner in the “who killed Alan Lee” stakes but there are other contenders. Alan’s older brother, Jasper, the heir to the business, has walked away from it to pursue his commitment to protect the ecology of the country and has watched his brother ignore the policies that the Lee family have in place to protect the forests which are the source of their wealth. The younger son, Kian Min, has plans to go further in expanding the family timber company no matter what the cost and the first item of business is to get rid of Alan. Chelsea insists that she is innocent but the police are convinced of her guilt and see no need to look further.
INSPECTOR SINGH INVESTIGATES is a story of marital disaster, family breakdown, greed, jealousy, misguided commitments, and shattered loyalty. The Lee family are starring in their own soap opera with Inspector Singh in the wings watching the drama, looking for the person who goes off script.
The book is a fast read and most of the violence is kept off the page. Unfortunately, the intriguing things about the locales, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, are also kept off the page. The story could take place in any major city in nearly any part of the world. There is nothing of the sense of place that is found in Cotterill’s Laos, Qiu’s Shanghai, or Hallinan’s Bangkok. Malaysia is confined to the cover art.
That being said, I will probably read other books in the series as they become available.