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The Feng Shui Detective by Nury Vittachi
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312320590
Reviewed by C.J. Curry, New Mystery Reader
If you are a fan of Charlie Chan and/or Mel Brooks with a little bit of Norm Crosby thrown in, then you will love this book. (am I telling my age here?) Mr. C. F. Wong is a noted Feng Shui consultant, He is tops in his field but doesn’t seem to have any control over his business or his office. He winds up taking on cases he doesn’t want and the two women in his office irritate him to distraction.
Always a polite and kind man he tries to overlook their shortcomings. It is, however, a little difficult to do when his secretary, Winnie Lim, is always late for work and tends to scream orders at him instead of taking them from him. When she does actually take care of business Mr. Wong is expected to behave as if she has done something extraordinary. Which is to say, in actuality, she has. Joyce McQuinnie is a teenage Aussie-American who came to Mr. Wong over his protests. Her Father is very wealthy and owns many companies, one of which had Mr. Wong on retainer. Mr. McQuinnie wanted Joyce to attend college and later take her place in one of his companies. As this didn’t appeal to the teenager and no college was willing to take her given her grades father and daughter worked out a deal. One year off to do extra credit work towards college entry.
Sooo Joyce now had the title of being Mr. Wong’s intern. Now all the two had to do was learn to decipher each others Language as Joyce spoke mainly in “teenager’ and Mr. Wong’s English was passable at best.
Mr. Wong has aspirations of writing a great book and works on it in his spare time. The manuscript is always with him and he jots in it at every odd moment he has. “Some Gleanings of Oriental Wisdom” is very clever and well worth reading. I loved the sayings. Give us more!
The stage is set with a few other minor characters to add to the confusion. Dilip Sinha, a practitioner of Ayervedic sciences and astrology from India, and Madame Xu Chong Li, who claimed her psychic powers were legendary, were friends of Mr. Wong. Police Superintendent Gilbert Tan has worked with all three on different cases and heads up the Singapore Union of Industrial Mystics., to which they all belong. They have regular committee meeting at a food booth in the night market.
Mr. Wong is working on several cases, when a daughter of one of his clients (and she is also a friend of Joyce), is kidnapped. The two go off on completely different tangents thinking only they have the answer. But in the end it takes the pair working together to solve the case.
Wong is approached by his two friends, Dilip and Madame Xu, to help with a case of great urgency. They had been approached separately by another seer, named Amran Ismail, about a baffling case and a young womans life hangs in the balance. After putting all the clues together, and an embarrassing visit to a teenage dance club, Wong and Joyce set off for Australia where the trail leads them. Are they on a wild goose chase? Can they find who and what they are searching for? Did they read the Feng Shui clues correctly?
Mr. Vittachi has put together a very clever and amusing story here. He pokes gentle fun at almost everyone. Americans, Australians, English and Chinese alike. I truly hope this pair of mismatched detectives will appear again very soon. And who knows, you may just learn a little bit about Feng Shui!
The Ten Word Game by Jonathan Gash
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312323476
Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader
Lovejoy, in yet another outing featuring this sometime crook and sometime saint, is one of the few people in the world who is able to divine the authenticity of artifacts and antiques. He is currently on the run for stealing one of his own forgeries -- a Van Goth painting. He is hiding in a sleazy import store in Southampton when he is tricked into boarding a ship and remaining on board once it sails. Once at sea he learns that his divining ability is to be used by a group who plans to rob a museum in St. Petersburg.
This is a hard book to get into and stay with. As an American reader, it is difficult to understand some of the English slang, vernacular and humor. Also, Lovejoy does not seem to be too bright at times because he is so easily manipulated, all making for a somewhat confusing and frustrating read. But if your cup of tea involves art, sleazy bad guys, and high jinx at sea, than this might just appeal to you anyway.