Monday, September 19, 2016

Review of "Inspector Singh Investigates: A Bali Conspiracy Most Foul" by Shamini Flint

Following a terrorist bombing in Bali, Inspector Singh is sent from Singapore to help catch the terrorists. Homicide detective Singh knows nothing about hunting terrorists, however, and is at a loose end. Then, it's discovered that one 'bomb victim', a British expat named Richard Crouch, was actually shot in the head before the blast and Singh is in his element - looking for a murderer.

Singh, a short plump Sikh who alway wears a turban, suit, and white sneakers, has a high opinion of his own investigative skills and likes to be the boss. Thus Singh is annoyed when he's partnered with Australian Federal Policewoman Bronwyn Taylor, a big woman in a white shirt and khakis, who has no homicide experience. Nevertheless, Singh and Bronwyn make a good team and - after sharing innumerable dangerous rides in a rickety Balinese taxi and too many high-calorie meals in local eateries - become something like friends.

There are numerous suspects for the murder, including Richard Crouch's wife and the small community of expats that comprise her social circle. There's a lot going on in this community, including bad marriages, gambling debts, and illicit romance, all of which is quite entertaining.

Before long evidence emerges that Richard spent a good deal of time with Muslim immigrants to Bali, who also become suspects in the killing. Most of the Muslim characters are family, and it's illuminating to see the interactions among a devout Muslim man, his very much younger wife, and her two brothers - even the youngest of whom feels free to criticize and chastise his sister. I was happy when she finally upped and slapped him across the face :)

The expats and Muslims are well-rounded, believable characters, most of whom have something to hide. Thus, Singh and Bronwyn are obliged to question and re-question them, organize surveillance, and step outside the law (a little bit) as they search for the truth.. Singh is an interesting man, a clever detective who often muses about his expanding belly, difficult wife, and desire to go home. Bronwyn is a likable gal, sympathetic to almost everyone, who holds her own in the investigation. There are also a variety of secondary characters including a helpful taxi driver, a hunky tan Australian surfer, a pimply hotel clerk, and an ambitious Balinese police officer.

I enjoyed the story and almost felt like I could experience the ambiance of Bali - the oppressive heat, crowded roads, crazy drivers, Hindu temples, devout citizens, innumerable snack booths, and friendly native people.

I'd recommend this book to mystery fans, especially readers who enjoy exotic settings.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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