Oodles of people can produce light, cosy mysteries that are entertaining but difficult to take seriously. And oodles more can pen blood-soaked tales of death and darkness. But I can’t think of another author who so consistently delivers stories that offer insightful glimpses into unknown worlds in a tone that manages to be light without being mocking or in any way dismissive of the pain her characters are experiencing. Shamini Flint really is a terrific teller of tales.
In the seventh book of the series Flint’s disgruntled Singaporean protagonist heads to England for a Commonwealth conference on policing. To make matters worse than going to a cold climate to talk about policing rather than doing actual police work, his wife decides to accompany him. He brightens a little when told there is a cold case for him to look into; the unsolved murder of Fatima Daud some five years earlier. But – unfathomably in Inspector Singh’s eyes – he isn’t supposed to solve the case.
‘Surely the best solution is to catch the murderer?’
‘We are here to explore whether the investigation might have had more success if it had engaged with the wider community and submit a paper with recommendations to the conference.”
Despite his baffling bureaucratic orders Singh is soon investigating the murder itself rather than the politics which surrounded the original case and even his wife gets in on the act.
This book couldn’t have been more timely given that it also incorporates a modern-day potential terrorist incident planned for the UK. Flint provides an incisive view of how terrorists can be ‘made’ and manages to show the absurdity of that path without any of the broad brush strokes that are often applied to this topic. Flint pulls off a delicate balancing act and delivers real understanding of this complex issue that, one way or another, we all must deal with.
The book is not all about politics though. At its heart there is a ripper yarn that unfolds with a mixture of suspense, warmth and humour. And did I mention the suspense? It’s a nail-biter, made all the more poignant when Mrs Singh puts herself in danger. The couple’s relationship is explored in more depth here than in many of the earlier novels and we really get to see that it is more complex than it might previously have appeared. It’s so refreshing to see a series novel offer surprises about its core characters without resorting to soap opera elements.
In short, I loved everything about this book. Hope you do too.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Piatkus, 2016
Length 361 pages
Book Series # in the Inspector Singh series
Source of review copy I bought it