Title: A Frightfully English Execution (Inspector Singh Investigates #7) ; Author: Shamini Flint; Publisher: Hachette India; Pages: 368 ; Price: Rs 499
A maverick, he is the despair of his Singapore Police bosses, who can’t however get rid of him since he is very good at his work but can keep him out of sight whenever possible. Inspector Singh now finds himself a continent away, but trouble is never far away from him – in this case, a lethal mix of murder, racial relations and terrorism and its his neck that is literally on the line.
Singapore-based, Indian/Sri Lankan origin corporate lawyer-turned-author Shamini Flint’s latest outing for the gruff, unkempt and overweight but dogged Inspector sees him in London for a Commonwealth conference on policing, and saved from looking up distant relatives by his wife who decides to accompany him.
Arriving in Britain eventually, after a piquant encounter with a fellow Sikh – but stern – Immigration official, he finds himself given a ‘cold’ (old unsolved) murder case, not to solve but see if police engagement with the community concerned during investigation met requirements.
Singh, who is never amenable to letting crimes, especially murder, going unsolved, however gets determined to solve the case – the gruesome killing of Pakistani-origin estate agent Fatima whose hands were also chopped off, though his local counterparts, or her family, are not too keen.
The police attitude changes when another body, also bearings the signs of a brutal killing and hands chopped off surfaces, and there is widespread panic. And the original murder victim’s family, which itself suspicious with one of its members having returned from Syria and another whose restaurant has been haemorrhaging money but now has made a remarkable turnaround, now asks Singh to take it up.
Who is behind the murder? Is it her own traditional family, her Indian origin boss, who Singh takes a dislike to at first sight, a hotshot lawyer who is a former boyfriend, a prospective suitor from Pakistan now settled in Britain who lies about the last time he saw her – and turns out to be married to the Home Office bureaucrat who gave Singh this particular case or someone else. And what about the second victim, who is a hairdresser, moonlighting as a prostitute, and on the verge of marriage.
Complicating the crime issue is the ever present spectre of terrorism – with a cell, which is just recording a video prior to setting out on a suicide bombing, busted by police in the story’s powerful opening but an informer warns of more attacks – which soon happen with another homegrown outfit starting to pick up people at random and executing them on camera.
Is Fatima’s family anyway involved in the murder or the terror plots? Who is behind the murders, are they connected and will Singh be able to solve them? Will police be able to stop the terror attacks? And most importantly, will Singh manage to save his wife, who sympathising with Fatima, has set on on her own to tail the killer and landed herself in a dangerous situation.
And Flint, in the seventh installment of the popular stories, takes us on a rollicking, suspenseful and witty ramble, with red herrings and intriguing subplots galore entwined with sparkling dialogue and comic situations – Singh’s encounter with the teenaged newspaper vendor when trying to buy cigarettes (uncharacteristically for a Sikh, he is a regular smoker, before all builds up to a crashing finale.
But her Singh adventures are not just intricately-constructed crime stories, but also insightful social, cultural and political commentaries – in this case, offering a look at the South Asian diaspora in Britain through eyes of a member of another part of the diaspora as well as the latest manifestation of radical jihadi terrorism an.
Also, her narrative device, which so far seen Singh operate at home just once in half a dozen installments, also give her a good opportunity to contrast the ordered society of his native Singapore with the more chaotic places he finds himself in – so far Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, India, China and now Britain, and the past which sits heavy in some of these.
(Vikas Datta can be contacted at [email protected])