I have to make disclosure that I have read Jesse’s past books, Dial A for Aunties and Four Aunties and A Wedding, and madly fell in love with them (that’s for the next reviews). These two books are making Chinese Indonesian Amah and Ayi (mother and aunties) front and centre with their hillarious focus on their children, to say I love it, truly understatement.
So when Vera’s Wong Unsolicited Advice for Murderers are published, I am intrigue. I have always loved detective and mysteries books, I collected hundreds of them, I grew up on them, I can even marked my life milestone nearly with these books. One of my favourite is sub genre where the detectives are warm hearted old lady as female lead, like Janes Marple by Agatha Christie. So I am crackling with nervous energi to read this book with excitement and trying to savour the read by going very slow instead of my typical pace of 2-3 days at max for a book.
The story is about a sixty-year-old tea expert Vera Wang who typically focus on her tea shop (and her competitor of “French Pastry” shop next door) and her son Tillber (or she call him Tilly despite his protest). Then one day she woke up to find a dead man smack in the middle of her beloved tea shop. What a detective lady who is well educated with CSI series to do, investigate of course. In the process, she gets to know ‘suspects’ such as Julia, the deceased long suffering wife, Oliver, his tortured soul deceased brother, Sana struggling actress who has been conned by the deceased and lastly Riki who is equally has been forced to write a bot for deceased’ con. As Vera roamed in her detecting quest, she touches the heart of many characters she came across and at the end one of the learning is that people will come together as one during hardship and get through the challenges by warming each other hearts.
I am writing this review as a layman reader and not one of those critics and those I have to start by saying as I read this book, I grew to love my meddling mother a bit more with her sending endless barrage of foods making my diet fail miserably. I love how Vera strives for excellence in her daily life, inspiring young people around her, she is who I aspire to be one day of course (although fabulous cooking is not something I can catch up on). The interaction between the young people (I think gen Z) and her, where the youngs are respectful despite their disagreement and how protective Vera toward them. While the plot is tight enough and pace is good, whatever gap there are are netted off with all these warm hearted interactions that I do not see in many of the books I read. The fact that the reveal is at the very end of the book is a great way to end the book and make those who enjoy the mystery and the reveal can enjoy the book.
The book address many of the issues faced by young people such as young marriage, gaslighting, impostor syndrom and addressing family burden in not lecturing kind of way but more practical storyline on how some are able to face and get better, one step at a time and not in a heavy emotion that darken you once you finish the book, yet you are still coming out reflective as well.
It is a funny and cozy mystery book, comfort food with warm hearted interaction and with deeper reflective theme underlying on how the young people with all their challenges must come together to help each out to become better version of themselves.
I am for sure will not miss out this lovely book for the world. Absolutely a gem, most definitely a must read. Great conversation starters in your book club or with your best friends at dinner table. A great read across generations for sure. Enjoy !