Humor in crime fiction is something that I feel is difficult to execute. If the humor becomes too much and overwhelms the crime, the genre loses out on something special. The detective’s character is what makes this mix successful or otherwise. Recently, I had read Tarquin Hall, and his central character, Vish Puri is one such delightful detective. When this book fell into my lap, I was expecting another such character.
There are similarities between the two detectives that can be seen. The pride/arrogance that they are the best at what they do is very striking. Both love to eat and both have sassy wives. Inspector Singh however comes out a little less convincing to me, possibly because of the setting (in this case, between Singapore and China).
In A Calamitous Chinese Killing, it’s the pride/arrogance that brings him many nicknames in the media, like Poppadum Policeman, and build his reputation as Singapore Police’s best detective, and which leads to him being summoned when a brutal murder happens to a relative of the chief at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing, China. Though the local police are keen to brush off the case as something small, the chief sees otherwise.
The problems he faces are many, the primary ones being that he doesn’t know the language, and the crime scene is not fresh when it’s given to him. Other than these, the case becomes bigger than it actually seems to be and he’s not helped in his investigation by other local factors as well.
Inspector Singh has investigated many crimes before this, none of which I have read, but I soon hope to. I liked his character, and he brings the humor element alive quite easily. The story however lacks a tight plot, maybe because there are just a handful of characters in the story. Sometimes, the change in point of view during narration doesn’t help the reader understand. It confuses, and that’s something I felt was a touch irritating. Shamini’s language is quite simple though, and that helps in no small amount to make this book more appealing.
All in all, a fun crime fiction. Nicely done.
In A Gist:
Positives: Simple narration and language, humorous protagonist
Negatives: Loose plot, predictability
Title: A Calamitous Chinese Killing
Series: Inspector Singh Investigates #6
Author: Shamini Flint
Genre: Crime Fiction
Publisher: Piatkus/Hachette India
Price: INR. 399
(Dec 31st, 2013)