The fourth of the Inspector Singh investigates stories
One of the great strengths of Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh series is her capacity to take us to very dark places in society and history whilst at the same time engaging us in a work of contemporary crime fiction with her delicious humour and lithe story-telling prowess.
Who would think that the killing fields of Cambodia would allow this? And yet this book delivers both an exploration of this hideous history and a story of the personal impacts and long tendrils of this history, wrapped in the highly readable and absorbing tale of Singh’s murder investigation – again he goes off-road from his original assignment to be an observer at an international war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh.
The murder of a key witness in this tribunal appears to be a random act of violence but Singh immediately smells a rat and is always loath to accept the obvious and the official takes on these events. Several stories entwine, but it is the ongoing corruption and high up efforts to protect war criminals that runs underneath all of this story. Nobody is trustworthy because almost everyone who survived played some sort of role in the atrocities , and certainly, many of those at high levels got away scot free.
The inevitable local side-kick is part of the story of generations of loss – Chhean spends much of her free time researching to try and find her lost family. She is a good ears and eyes on the ground person though and her language skills and intelligence are essential to Singh’s investigation. The parallel story of Frenchman Francois Gaudin also speaks of family loss and the cruelty of the regime.
The local head of the investigation is Colonel Menhay and Singh forms a good opinion of him early in the piece. There is another story there that finally unfolds and a screen-worthy almost-finale that has us gasping aloud. But never fear – there are at least three books to follow for Inspector Singh, each as compelling as those that began our love affair with the canny policeman from Singapore.
If you haven’t yet begun your love affair with Inspector Singh, I highly recommend that you start one now. Singh is a dishevelled, grumpy policeman, who is sent far and wide by his superiors, probably to get him out of their hair, to participate in international crime solving operations. His expertise in in murder and it is not always apparent at the beginning (both to Singh and his readers) how this will pan out when he is assigned to other types of crime solving.
These books are gloriously entertaining and thought-provoking reads. I am sure your library will have them if you cannot indulge in buying them, but my seven now are in the ‘not to leave the house’ category.
You can find my interview with Shamini Flint about Inspector Singh investigates – a Frightfully English Execution at https://livingartscanberra.com.au/podcasts/terror-australis-festival/ and at: https://livingartscanberra.com.au/shamini-flint-inspector-singh-investigates-a-frightfully-english-execution/, where you will also find a short book blog.