Review of Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Sutanto's Vera Wong is playful, brusque, bossy, and connects an unlikely cast of characters, all murder suspects, into a heartwarming friendship that feels like family.
Vera Wong is running a largely unvisited tea house, lamenting her grown son's lack of time for her, and grumbling about the new "French" bakery that's just opened down the street in Chinatown.
When a dead body shows up in her tea house, Vera takes charge of the investigation of what only she is certain is a murder.
She slips potential evidence into her pocket, gathers and questions those she thinks are suspects, and bosses around the police.
Marshall, the deceased, was a petty, obnoxious, verbally abusive, selfish, belittling jackass. (It's not clear why anyone put up with him, but he is described as having been handsome and as having fooled absolutely everyone with a nice-guy act.)
As the truth comes out about Marshall's activities and his final evening, it becomes clear that each character has a possible motivation for having offed Marshall, so to Vera, each is a potential killer. She throws dinner parties and facilitates get-together to study her subjects.
And along the way, Vera's brusque truth-telling inspires an unlikely group of friends to form a special bond that's more like that of a family. This was absolutely my favorite part of the book.
I can't help comparing this lighthearted fiction about the formation of a group of unlikely friends to another recent read of mine, The Lonely Hearts Book Club. In that book, I kept feeling stopped by wondering why the heck anyone would continue delving daily into the orbit of a brutally grumpy and unappreciative character. But in Vera Wong, while Vera is pushy she is also deeply caring, helpful, and serves as a connector--and the unlikable character in the story died before the book begins.
I listened to the playful, heartwarming Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers as an audiobook, narrated by Eunice Wong.
This was a fast read (listen), and while the denouement didn't completely hold together for me and the loose ends were tied up with extreeeeeemely tidy bows, the story was really about the relationships and Vera's coming into her own, and I adored these aspects.
Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?
Jesse Q. Sutanto is also the author of Dial A for Aunties, Four Aunties and a Wedding, The New Girl, Well, That Was Unexpected, The Obsession, I'm Not Done with You Yet, and the Theo Tan series for young readers.