“Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers” by Jesse Q. Sutanto

“Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers” by Jesse Q. Sutanto

This story of an elderly Chinese lady’s amateur sleuthing is an easy fun read, with some surprisingly moving moments.

Vera Wong is lonely, largely ignored by her yuppie son, and her tea shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown is dusty and seldom visited. It’s also cunningly named after Vera Wang, but even that bit of linguistic licence doesn’t draw the crowds.

Despite keeping herself active and fussing over her tea supplies and recipes, Vera’s life is a solitary, empty one – until one morning she finds a dead body in her tea shop. The dead man is clutching a pen drive, which Vera immediately nicks, leaving the police none the wiser.

Vera Wong sets out to find who murdered the man in her shop – she is convinced it’s murder, despite the local police being decidedly lukewarm about the cause of death – and as she gradually encounters the few people connected to the mystery man, she begins to get very fond of them. In her own brusque, inimitable way.

She forces them to drink her tea preparations, and to eat her lovingly cooked food, all the while sleuthing away, and the disparate group of former strangers befriend her and each other – all the while wondering which one of them is the murderer.

It’s an overall cute story, though I preferred the first half of the book with Vera’s pushy, bossy behaviour and tart rejoinders. The second half of the book, although sweet, and solving the whodunnit mystery, with a decidedly clever plot-twist, has a definite feeling of tying up loose ends.

A minor quibble, which doesn’t impact this overall happy read.

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