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The Feng Shui Detective – by Nury Vittachi

March 27, 2010

The Feng Shui Detective by Nury Vittachi is one of my favourites. I received this book and its sequel, The Feng Shui Detective Goes South, from friends in Hong Kong, where the author is based. I think his books are a little more difficult to get hold of in North America, but it’s worth it!  (Check your local library.)

The Feng Shui detective is C.F. Wong, a 56-year-old geomancer who uses his skills to solve mysteries and crimes in Singapore that the local police have trouble with, all in pursuit of spiritual harmony, peace, and financial security.  He is “assisted” – not by choice – by Joyce McQuinnie, a teenager from Australia who grew up all over Asia, who in her gap year needs a project to help get her into college. They make a very unlikely pair, an extreme clash of cultures and personalities, which is one of the main factors that make this book so enjoyable.

“She then went out to the shop and returned with a big cardboard bucket of something she called Tall Skinny Latte, which smelled like bitter coffee and cow milk, and made him feel so sick that he was unable to finish his stewed colon he had picked up from a hawker for his lunch. She laughed like a braying donkey on the phone to her friends, the way only men should laugh.” (p. 18) Wong has a breakthrough in understanding her when he works out that her term for “yes” is “whatever,” and “no” is “as if.”

In his investigations of quirky mysteries, Wong also calls upon his friends in the Singapore Union of Industrial Mystics, especially Dilip Kenneth Sinha, a grandfatherly Indian astrologer; Madame Xu, an elegant Chinese psychic; and Gilbert Tan, an overworked Malay-Chinese civil servant. They are all endearing and add lots of humour.

This book is entertaining and innovative, and full of great stories.  If you have travelled in East Asia, I think you’ll find it even more entertaining, and you might even get nostalgic for all those difficult cross-cultural encounters . . .

Vittachi has written more books with C.F. Wong and friends. The Feng Shui Detective Goes South is another one of my favourites, and I’d love to read The Feng Shui Detective’s Casebook, The Shanghai Union of Industrial Mystics, and Mr. Wong Goes West.

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