Fifth installment of the series about Inspector Singh of the Singapore police, forever being shipped off elsewhere to get him out of his superiors’ hair. This time he’s on compulsory sick leave, and thus can’t claim pressure of work to avoid being dragged by Mrs Singh to a family wedding in India. But the Singhs arrive only to find that the bride-to-be has disappeared. The last thing her immediate family want is the police involved, because of the social stigma — the obvious motive for the young woman’s disappearance is to avoid an arranged marriage. For the family patriarch, worried about his granddaughter’s welfare as well as her reputation, an investigation by a family member who just happens to be a member of another country’s police force is a much more appealing prospect.
Then a corpse turns up, and the local police are involved whether the family likes it or not. But Singh keeps digging, and finds a tangle of motives that he’s not willing to ignore.
Once again Flint has blended a police procedural with a sensitive look at the ramifications of a real life tragedy. This book is deeply rooted in Sikh culture, and that includes the ongoing after-effects of the 1984 riots and massacre in India. But the latter does not overwhelm the book — it is only one strand in a complex story about a complex society. A particular feature of the book is that it is quite openly an outsider’s view of India, complete with an outsider’s prejudices and reactions — but the outsider here is not a white European, but a member of the Indian diaspora of Singapore. Singh finds India at once both alien and familiar, and this colours his reaction to the things he encounters during his investigation.
Singh is a joy of a character to read about, and Flint has created yet another fascinating twist to her series hook of a police inspector who frequently ends up investigating murder well outside his official jurisdiction. The Singaporean Sikh is a marvellous addition to the ranks of maverick detectives in mystery fiction, and I’m very much hoping that there will be a sixth book in the series.