A series starter that makes me want to read the rest of the series…
I’m a huge fan of historical mysteries, and I’m not too picky about either the when or the where. So I was very happy to find a new author (new to me, at least), AM Stuart, with a new series, set in Singapore in the time just before World War I. And I really liked this book – I liked the setting, the characters, and the mystery itself.
Singapore at the time of the book was one of the Straits Settlements, which were part of the British Empire. The colony itself was a diverse mix of European and local inhabitants, and Stuart’s book does a nice job of portraying this mix, although the murder(s) and accompanying mystery are mostly set in the European community. I’ve spent several enjoyable days in the Singapore National Museum, the Asian Civilizations Museum, the Peranakan Museum, and other museums in Singapore, and it was fun to see the history I learned about in those museums brought to life. My favorite example from the book is Stuart’s portrayal of Changi as a remote backwater fishing village, as it was at the time, rather than the huge international airport that it is today!
In a bit of a different slant, as a fan of Gillian Linscott’s series about suffragette Nell Bray, I also appreciated Stuart’s depiction of Harriet Gordon’s past experiences as part of the movement – including the horrible forced feedings of suffragette hunger-strikers. With at least one more book coming in the series, it will be interesting to see how Harriet’s character deals with the trauma she experienced as a suffragette. On a less somber note, it will also be interesting to see how her life changes with her new ward, Will, and whether any romantic storyline pops up for her.
Finally, the mystery was also nicely done. There were multiple story threads and some good red herrings, which kept me guessing throughout most of the book. And even when I thought I finally knew what was going on, the author had saved a couple of satisfying plot twists for the end.
I don’t give five stars to many books that I read, maybe one in thirty or forty books, so five stars for this book is a huge recommendation. And I’m very much looking forward to the next in the series.