Title: Miss Moorthy Investigates
Author: Ovidia Yu
Publisher: Landmark Books
I chanced upon this book while attending the Singapore Writers’ Festival 2012. Going into Crime-Reading Month, I thought this would be a good book to talk about here.
Set in Singapore in the 70s, Miss Moorthy is presented as a logical, sensible literature teacher in her alma mater. Singapore at that time had ‘The Strangler’ as one of the most wanted criminals – a serial killer who hacked the hands off his victims (usually working women in their 20s). And while Miss Moorthy and her colleagues are saddened by the sudden murder of Evelyn Ngui, another teacher at Mt. Emily, Moorthy finds herself looking for the truth behind her colleague’s death.
First thing’s first, I do like the well-roundedness of Miss Moorthy’s character – her passion, her habits, her quirks (how she randomly breaks into song) – as well as the use of her relationship with Sybil Chan, a student who doesn’t talk, to portray the issues of education in Singapore (like overprotective parents) without straying from the main plot itself.
The level of mystery was rather foggy, with no one particular person being more suspicious than the other towards the end. I generally do not like mysteries like this it’s takes away a lot of the drama you expect in crime fiction. The interesting backgrounds behind each suspect and the relatively fast pace, however, keep your interest piqued.
I would have loved to see more relationship delving though – You don’t really see Miss Moorthy mixing with Anthony and Constance on many non-case-related issues.
Despite that, I think the greatest thing that struck me about the story was how awesome Constance Chay was. Okay, Constance, or Connie as mentioned in the story, is the free-spirited housemate of Savitri Moorthy, the protagonist of this novel. Miss Moorthy presents a juxtaposition to Connie, being the level-headed but passionate teacher from Mt. Emily Secondary School.
The ending gave me a very Hercule Poirot feel. And while the revelation came out a bit too convenient at first – possibly due to a rather on-the-surface view of the crime earlier – the puzzle pieces fit eventually.
You can find out more about Miss Moorthy Investigates here. Until then, I hope you enjoy your Bak Kut Teh (pig’s bone soup).