I think it was last week when I mentioned I had enjoyed reading a book which I think I described as ‘a nice easy read’; I went on to say it was ‘a book which is keeping me entertained, keeping me reading long after my bed-time, and yet is what you might call ‘light reading’. I’m gripped, intrigued and interested.’ I hope that didn’t sound dismissive or patronising, I didn’t intend it to be. I have got a little weary of wading through pages of description – description of location, thoughts, character, and endless conversations which don’t sound as if they ever could have been actually uttered by any real person. I’ve become frustrated with endings which are either so convoluted I have to read them a couple of times, or just fizzle out in a plethora of explanation. ‘The Ambassador’s Wife’ by Jake Needham gripped me from the beginning, had realistic characters who weren’t perfect but neither were they so flawed you couldn’t believe in them as either the police officers trying to solve the crime, nor the witnesses and perpetrators, had locations (Singapore and Thailand) which was clearly evoked with colour, smell, sound, people and places, and a believable plot if intriguing plot… In short it was a great book… so good that as soon as I’d finished it, I got the next book in the series, the second of the Inspector Sam Tay mysteries.
‘The Umbrella Man’ is much darker, starting off with a horrific and very believable event on a massive scale which I won’t even hint at so it won’t spoil the shock if you read it. Sam Tay is pulled off the investigation of this ghastly outrage and sidelined to investigate a very ordinary sounding murder in a poor housing complex. The reason why he’s taken off the case has roots in the first book about him, ‘The Ambassador’s Wife’ but Needham manages the amazing balancing act of not revealing anything which would spoil the mystery of book 1, and yet completely explain various things which happen in the second book. It’s a complex stories with many strands, family history, assassination, murder, creative accounting, espionage, terrorism… plus quirky humour, and believable characters.
I finished the book last night, and it’s probably not surprising that I’ve already got the next in the series, ‘The Dead American’ and I see there is a fourth, ‘The Girl in the Window’…. hope I can resist them until after I’ve read the next couple of books for book club, The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade by Cecil Woodham-Smith, and The Humans by Matt Haig!