Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Miss Moorthy Investigates - Ovidia Yu

It is Singapore of the 1970s and the Singapore Strangler is on the prowl, targeting single successful women. While the police hunt desperately for clues, the newspapers frontpage his gruesome murders.  With characteristic wit and dry humor, Yu explains how the Strangler has captured public imagination.

“The Strangler’s terror-hold on the female imagination had had unexpected social repercussions.  Single, successful career women were stampeding to get married to a man, any man.”

Miss Moorthy, former entertainer, now pursuing her career of choice as a school teacher was content to read about the infamous Strangler in the paper and double check the locks on her doors. But when a teacher, Evelyn Ngui, working in her school is murdered, the story acquires a personal angle for Miss Moorthy. 
Miss Moorthy has a personal run in with the Strangler when turns up at the apartment she shares with a former school friend, Connie, a producer of popular TV serials. The Strangler was apparently looking to murder Connie because she fits the profile of a single, succesful woman,  but  hunter turns into hunted, as he is efficiently apprehended by the two women. As Miss Moorthy tells us, catching burglars is easier than seen on TV.

“All it took was a little presence of mind and a good brick. Nothing to it, really.”

Miss Moorthy finds out from her boyfriend, Dr Anthony Tan, the Forensic Pathologist in charge of the case, that the Singapore Strangler, has not killed Evelyn and that the suspect list includes a friend of Anthony’s, who was once dating Evelyn.

Miss Moorthy takes it upon herself to find out who murdered Evelyn. Was it the married man Evelyn was having an affair with? And why is David, Anthony’s friend and former boyfriend of Evelyn edging towards a nervous breakdown if he had nothing to do with the murder?

On a parallel track, Miss Moorthy is faced with belligerent parents who want to ensure their children get the best marks, inquisitive students who believe their teacher has all the answers, a girl who will not speak, a mysterious money transfer into Evelyn’s account and a blue and white rabbit that goes missing.

There are enough clues in the story for the reader to figure out the murderer. This is not a classic whodunit in the sense it fails to keep up the suspense to the end. But read it anyway for its interesting glimpses of life in newly independent Singapore, cheeky wit, a feminist take on society and entertaining characters whose oddities and eccentricities are worth a few chuckles.

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