Aunty Lee’s Deadly Specials: Ovidia Yu
Rosie” Aunty” Lees is back again but this time the amazing cook, chef and owner of Aunty Lee’s Delights has more than just murders to solve. She needs to find a way to protect her reputation and not lose her restaurant. Amateur Jessica Fletcher or even Miss Marple, Aunty Lee is the owner of Singapore’s outstanding and adored home cooking restaurant. Learning about the death of her husband in Aunty Lee’s Delights where we tasted her spicy meals and listened to the locals rave about her cooking our Aunty Lee is a cooking force and much more to be reckoned with. As in this book murder seems to follow her at dinner parties where she is hired to cater the food. With her new partner, Cherril and her assistant, they put together a banquet fit for the President of China or any other country. But, there is much more as the author brings back her stepson, Mark and his difficult to deal with wife, Selina whose only goal is to make sure that she rises in social circles. Snobby, often very critical of everyone’s appearance or class distinction, Selina creates controversy where it does not exist.
Mabel and Leonard Sung are mother and son. Leonard is physically and mentally ill and challenged. Mabel a powerful lawyer and head of Sung Law hires Aunty Lee to cater a special brunch to celebrate promoting her daughter Sharon to full partner in her law firm. But, not every party ends well and this one turns out not quite what Aunty hoped. The guests appear and the food is served and Mabel decides to take a special tray up to her son’s room so that he will remain calm and quite. With her husband Henry occupied elsewhere, GraceFaith her assistant finding her way up to Leonard’s room with the heavy tray, what happens will surprise readers and alert anyone that eats a specific chicken dish, which she expertly prepares that, has black nuts containing cyanide. But, just how this happens no one really knows and the way the dish was prepared and the nuts cleaned and cooked there is no way that the cyanide was in them or the food. The dish she made was properly created and the cyanide removed as Aunty Lee explains the method and teaches would be cooks and chefs how to prepare this dish. But, the event happens and Mabel and her son are found dead in his room after supposedly consuming the chicken. Sharon is not really concerned. The police called as an after thought and the murder investigation begins and of course Aunty Lee wants to play a big role in solving it even though the police would rather handle it on their own. But, she’s in trouble if the reason for their deaths proves to be her chicken and the police decide to close her down until the investigation is completed and the killer is found. Aunty Lee is persistent and Commissioner Raja and Inspector Salim work together along with an Inspector Sergeant to solve the crime. Other officers involved but none so inventive or concerned as Salim’s former partner Tim Pang. With her new partner who has created a drinks business as part of her café and her maid or assistant, Nina, Aunty Lee decides to investigate on her own. Many of her own contacts and aligned with some of the richest families in Singapore and her two gay friends, Otto and Joe, that are married, she manages to find a way to get the information needed. Added in she is determined to learn about Mabel’s prayer group and their link to the organ donor scandal. It is her reputation at stake and she is going to find the killer before more bodies fall.
Her ability to create Peranakan food in the style that fits the culinary tastes of those living in Singapore, her delights are amazing, the recipes in the book are mouth watering and the resemblance to Jessica Fletcher uncanny. Aunty can be overpowering, pushy and dresses in her own style and always trying to find out the scoop you might say. Loves gossip, loves listening to what others have to say about other people, she decides to venture out on her own by interviewing Henry Sung’s friend Doreen Choo who she thinks he is having an affair with. But, thinks take a nasty turn when her café is closed down by the police for complaints that were supposedly filed against her for lack of cleanliness in her kitchen and poor food. Added in Mabel Sung was draining the business using the money and funds for her son’s medical care hoping to get him a new heart and other organs. But, being fleeced by someone that was supposed to help you as a medical provider was just the tip of the iceberg as Aunty Lee learned when she pretended to want new knees. Transplants, organ donors that thought they would be financially sound after giving up a kidney or other organ were sadly mistaken. But, Aunty Lee is relentless and would not give up because something about what happened to Mabel did not ring true.
With the help of Inspector Salim she was able to reopen her café but when Mabel Sung’s accounts were scrutinized the end result was she was more than overdrawn. Her personal accounts overextended. A child who was angry at being thought not equal to her sibling and a husband who could no longer practice and was in deed of funds. When Mabel decided she no longer cared about her law firm and her daughter took over, little did she realize that what was given to her as partner was really debt. Just who wanted Mabel and Leonard out of the way? Was it murder or was it an accident? What happens when Aunty Lee gets too close to a dangerous killer? Will she survive or have we seen the last of her delicious foods? When GraceFaith disappears and the truth behind what happened to Benjamin Ng is revealed you won’t believe who was behind his murder, who would benefit from Mabel’s death and what really happened to Leonard.
Leonard was on drugs, belittled anyone he knew, thrown out of schools and finally returning because he was ill, someone wanted to make sure that his death looked like suicide in order to get rid of him and Mabel. Dr. Edmond Yong what was his take on all of this and why did he try to blackmail Aunty Lee into allowing him to operate on her knees? What did he accuse her of and why? Greed, power, jealousy, profit, hate, racism and just plain revenge are just some of the reasons why Mabel and Leonard were killed? So, will Aunty Lee live to create more dishes and hopefully not make anyone sick? Author Ovidia Yu and Aunty Lee are the only ones that can answer that question. For those that like to cook she has shared several recipes at the end of the book and others throughout it. So, if you come to her café would you try the Buah Keluak? You decide after reading this delightful novel.
Fran Lewis: reviewer