I have been prescheduling all my blog posts the last week, not by much but by a couple of days. I will be moving on to my second week of holidays and each might be more hectic than the last, so I am staying prepared. This post, however, is going out an hour after my reading this, since the book gets archived on NetGalley today. It also releases today so I want more people to experiment with it.
When I drew up my stats for the year, I noticed very few books not based in the western world. Even the historical fictions feature times and places in Europe and North America. It did help identify themes and feel like I knew something when I visited Europe for the first time earlier this month. Once in a while, I hope to try something closer home.
I know next to nothing about the history of Singapore, having visited it only fleetingly for one week years ago. This book has made me very interested in the foundations of it all. This is a third book in the series and although I think I would have been at an advantage if I had knowledge of the previous two, I was amply supplied with all the previous situations. I now live in Hong Kong and am studying Cantonese (or trying to, at this stage it is only the spoken part), and seeing a familiar word here and there as well as the heavy Indian quotient in the book felt rewarding. I think this will evoke similar responses even if people have a passing curiosity about the Asian regions during the war times. This story is based in India’s Pre Independence era. There is a lot of influence that the actions of the people fighting for freedom in India seem to have on this island nation.
Su Lin(our leading lady) is a highly connected woman but tries to maintain a low profile while actively engaging her intelligence. At the start of this tale, she has been replaced at her own job but is back on location to help. She is an efficient cog in the detective machine investigating the sudden death of one of their own officials. One thing leads to another and a few dead bodies, a lot of theories and fear of ‘Indians’ starts up in the local British higher-ups. It is a very immersive experience and considering that this is the history of the author’s own country, there is bound to be a lot of facts accurately represented. I liked it more for the socio-political commentary than the mystery which was not bad either. It was tied up in the above-mentioned commentary as well. I highly recommend this to all those people who like their mysteries/historical fiction to hold a lot of information about little known times and places.
P.S The Paper bark tree (mentioned in the title) is in abundance around the city where I live and I have a strange fondness for them, now having read (however indirectly) about all their plus points, I feel more in awe of them even if I saw them as mere spectators in this tale.
I received this as an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is completely based on my reading experience.