Aunty Lee's Delight


This delectable and witty mystery introduces Rosie "Aunty" Lee, feisty widow, amateur sleuth, and proprietor of Singapore's best-loved home-cooking restaurant

After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could have become one of Singapore's "tai tai," an idle rich lady. Instead she is building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean meals are graciously served to locals and tourists alike. But when a body is found in one of Singapore's tourist havens and one of her guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two events are likely connected.

The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee's henpecked stepson, Mark, his social-climbing wife, Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit may mask a deeper purpose. Investigating the murder are Police Commissioner Raja and Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, who quickly discover that Aunty Lee's sharp nose for intrigue can sniff out clues that elude law enforcers.

Wise, witty, and charming, Aunty Lee's Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship, and food in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities coexist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly consequences.


When Laura Kwee's dead body washes up on Sentosa beach, Rosie "Aunty" Lee's curiosity is piqued – particularly since Laura was a guest at Aunty Lee's dinner party the previous week. But then two more young ladies go missing – one of whom also attended Aunty Lee's party – and the old woman's curiosity becomes a burning desire to get to the bottom of the crime wave that's plaguing her corner of Singapore. Does the violence taking place have anything to do with Aunty Lee or her establishment? Are her other guests in danger? Aunty Lee must solve the mystery and quickly, or a decline in business will be the least of her worries.   

Aunty Lee's Delights is the first in Ovidia Yu's new Singaporean Mystery series. First off, props to Harper Collins for publishing a cozy that's set outside the United States and that stars a non-American protagonist; that combo's rare in today's traditional mystery market, and the genre could definitely benefit from a little more diversity.

That said, though, I'm forced to admit I found Aunty Lee's Delights nearly impossible to finish. Yu's prose is choppy and discursive. The tale is littered with artless info dumps that do nothing to inform character or forward plot. The book has zero narrative drive, and Yu's near constant head-hopping makes it impossible for the reader to get his or her bearings (seriously, a tilt-a-whirl is less disorienting). The pacing is glacial, there's no action or tension, and the stakes are non-existent. What little conflict there is feels forced and artificial (not to mention far-fetched). The mystery is ill-conceived and poorly executed, with nary a clue or suspect to be found. And to a one, the characters are flat, lifeless, and unlikable.

In sum, if you're looking for light-hearted crime fic with a side of culture, stick with Alexander McCall Smith; Aunty Lee's Delights may be packed to the gills with random facts about Singapore and its people, but it's distinctly lacking in everything else.

Reviewed by Kat