Shamini Flint – Inspector Singh investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder

The first of the Inspector Singh investigates stories
Piatkus 2009

People who live in Canberra will appreciate just how much of the Christmas holiday period we have all spent cooped up indoors, due to air quality which over the months of December and January frequently registered as the worst of any capital city in the world – smoke from our region’s bushfires blew our way with the shore breeze every afternoon. Then we had fires on our doorstep in the Orroral Valley.

The major up-side of this – thank goodness everything has an up-side – was the many hours this afforded us to read (and watch tennis on TV) with a free conscience (if we need an excuse).

It may seem obsessive to some, but won’t to readers that in this time I worked my way gloriously through Shamini Flint’s first six Inspector Singh investigates books (amongst other things), having only met this wonderful man last September in preparation for the Terror Australis Crime Writing Festival. I fell head over heels for this chap and can’t imagine where he’s been all my life.

In each of Inspector Singh’s adventures, Shamini Flint takes us on a cultural exploration. These are crime stories which delve into the specifics of cultural mores, history and human behavior. Super reads every one of them. Thus it is I crave your indulgence in writing about the six of them, one by one, though the first was published back in 2009 – A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder.

In this introduction to Inspector Singh we see him sent from his home in Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to solve the murder of famous fashion model Chelsea Liew’s husband. She is Singaporean and hence the involvement of Singh’s police department, an organisation which seems bent on getting him out from under their feet at every opportunity.

Singh finds himself sympathetic to the widow and unwilling to believe in her guilt, despite the fact that what evidence there is points to her. His investigations lead him to unravel family business skullduggery and personal family secrets, illegal practices in land clearing, abuse of the Indigenous forest people and the activities of international environmental activists.

His Malaysian ‘boss’ Inspector Mohammad runs parallel investigations and we worry that Singh’s methods may bring him to grief. However, this is the beginning of what turns out to be an ongoing relationship, revisited in a later story.

 As in the stories that follow, Singh is already strongly drawn – his striking appearance, his love of food, his unconventional white sneakers, his idiosyncratic relationship with his Sikh religion, his somewhat prickly relationship with Mrs Singh and his Singaporean superiors, his intuitive methods married with his sharp eye for detail and for human foibles, his sense of the importance of justice, his understanding of the nuances of the human soul, his insistence on evidence as the final legal requirement to get his perpetrator and his reputation for always doing that.

Singh’s grumpy exterior hides a man who cares about his work and I read into that one who cares about the human beings he seeks to help, regardless of their station in society. Such a likeable grump, this one.

Also, as with the other books, Shamini Flint writes with a wicked humour which has me laughing aloud.

If you haven’t yet begun a love affair with Inspector Singh, I highly recommend that you start one now. Further articles will follow shortly about the other five Inspector Singh books.

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/

The interview is also at https://livingartscanberra.com.au/shamini-flint-inspector-singh-investigates-a-frightfully-english-execution/, where you will also find a short book blog.