The Frangipani Tree Mystery (Crown Colony)

Written by Ovidia Yu
Review by Alan Fisk

In 1936 in Singapore, teenage orphan Su Lin knows that her uncle wants to give her away in marriage to a suitable husband—that is, suitable in his estimation. Su Lin’s mentor from the Mission School, Miss Nessa Palin, is trying to argue him out of it when an unexpected possibility of escape arises: the sudden death of the governess of Miss Nessa’s mentally disabled niece, the daughter of her brother, the Acting Governor of Singapore.

The investigating police officer, Chief Inspector LeFroy, drives with Su Lin to the Governor’s residence. Su Lin establishes a rapport with the childlike teenage daughter and becomes a temporary replacement for the dead governess. The conflicts within the strained family swirl around Su Lin, and then another death is discovered. Can Su Lin help Chief Inspector LeFroy to work out what has been going on, and, even more importantly, can she get out of this alive herself?

The multicultural atmosphere and hot, steamy climate of Singapore are well evoked, but the editing is a little amiss. For example, a tapir hunt on page 292 becomes a pig hunt on page 304, and tapirs are not even related to pigs.

Recommended by this homesick Singaporean reviewer.