Sunday, 28 June 2020

The Mimosa Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

The Mimosa Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu
Published in the UK by Constable on the 4th June 2020.

One of my More Than One Challenge reads.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mirza, a secretive neighbour of the Chens in Japanese Occupied Singapore, is a known collaborator and blackmailer. So when he is murdered in his garden, clutching a branch of mimosa, the suspects include local acquaintances, Japanese officials -- and his own daughters.

Su Lin's Uncle Chen is among those rounded up by the Japanese as reprisal. Hideki Tagawa, a former spy expelled by police officer Le Froy and a power in the new regime, offers Su Lin her uncle's life in exchange for using her fluency in languages and knowledge of locals to find the real killer.

Su Lin soon discovers Hideki has an ulterior motive. Friends, enemies and even the victim are not what they seem. There is more at stake here than one man's life. Su Lin must find out who killed Mirza and why, before Le Froy and other former colleagues detained or working with the resistance suffer the consequences of Mirza's last secret.

My second Crown Colony Mystery by Ovidia Yu although this new story, The Mimosa Tree Mystery, is actually the fourth book in the series. I felt happy reading it as a standalone novel, however characters (Le Froy in particular) from the the previous novel, The Paper Bark Tree Mystery, (the only other one I've read!) do get mentions so I might actually have benefited from a deeper understanding by reading the four books in order rather than starting in the middle!

The Mimosa Tree Mystery is set in Singapore at the same time as How We Disappeared by Jing Jing Lee. Ovidia Yu's crime fiction focuses more on aspects of a murder investigation than the war, but does give an emotive portrayal of how Singaporeans had to live under Japanese occupation. I was interested by the comparisons drawn between this experience and the previous British occupation of the island. In a lot of ways, very little changed for ordinary Singapore nationals others than the language of their oppressors.

Su Lin is co-opted as a sleuth when her neighbour is found murdered and I love her character. Her dry sense of humour chimes well with my own and I enjoyed her offbeat way of seeing the world around her. It's a difficult environment with everyone seemingly out for themselves. Deception is rife throughout this story so it's tricky to establish who can be trusted. I'm not sure I actually kept up with all the threads that came together at the denouement, but I did enjoy following the trails to get there. The Mimosa Tree Mystery is a good blend of crime fiction and historical fiction and I like Ovidia Yu's style.

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