Inspector Singh Investigates: A Frightfully English Execution by Shamini Flint

Inspector SinghInspector Singh is not a happy man. After treading on too many toes when solving a murder in China, he has been sent to England to help out with a cold case. The case sounds intriguing – a young estate agent was lured to a house and then found dead with her hands cut off – but he’s not there to solve it, just to help a colleague assess how the investigation was handled by the police five years ago. But Singh isn’t that sort of policeman…

No sooner has he (and his wife) started sniffing around, but another murder occurs – another young woman, also with her hands removed – but connections between the crimes are hard to find. Taking matters into his own hands, Singh is determined to find justice for the women, but soon finds himself in someone’s crosshairs.

First off, a few thanks. Obviously to Little, Brown and Piatkus for letting me have this review copy via NetGalley, but also Fiona McQuillan who, via twitter, suggested that I might like this series. I do tend to remember suggestions, and when I spotted this on NetGalley soon after reading Fiona’s tweet, I thought I’d give it a go.

I’d not heard of this series before Fiona mentioned it – a bit of a surprise as the covers are nicely distinctive and the basic idea, namely that of a Sikh detective investigating crimes in other cultures, is a refreshing structure. Of course, that can backfire if the description of the culture isn’t convincing enough to a native. Now where was this one set?

As I read this, I was unnecessarily hyper-alert for… what’s the geographical equivalent of anachronisms? Anyway, for those. There’s one comment – about eating fish and chips out of the News Of The World (chips haven’t been served in newspaper for decades and that paper was cancelled five years ago) – but that comment was Singh’s expectations before he got to London. As it happens, Shamini Flint seems to have an excellent grasp of London life, better than mine in fact – oh, and the rest of the book’s pretty impressive, too. Don’t be put off by the “Frightfully English” part of the title – this is nowhere near Downton Abbey territory.

I must admit, I was surprised at some of the plot strands that were in the book. Knowing little about it before hand, I expected a cosy style mystery set in the present day with lots of fish out of water jokes. I wasn’t expecting a tale tackling religion, terrorism, and a number of strands straight out of today’s headlines.

Singh and his wife are great characters. Singh is cut from the cloth of the traditional investigator, always smarter than those around him, but with enough traits, not just his religion, to make him stand out from the crowd. His wife’s involvement in the case is convincingly portrayed and as the book progresses, their relationship is essential to the tale and is utterly believable.

Plot-wise, the links between the various characters reminds me of a the classic style of mystery, as it transpires that everyone is a little bit more involved in the events than we might have expected. At the end of the day, one strand of the plot takes dominance and part of it is resolved almost as an afterthough – a pity given the build-up to it, but it’s a gripping finale regardless with a clever twist involved.

Overall – an engrossing tale with charm and humour, with a dark plot running through it. Highly Recommended – when I get back to buying books again, I’ll be looking out for more from the author.

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