by Ovidia Yu
Series: Crown Colony Mystery #4
Publication Date: June 4, 2020
Genre: Fiction, Historical, Mystery
Even though I’ve enjoyed the previous three entries in this series, I hesitated over this one. The first three were pre-WWII, but The Mimosa Tree Mystery moves the series into Japanese occupied Singapore. I couldn’t see how Yu would be able to write a story that maintained the gentility of a traditional mystery in the middle of a Japanese occupied war-torn setting and maintain any semblance of authenticity.
Yu not only managed, she outdid her previous efforts. There’s no sugar-coating the atrocities perpetuated by the Japanese during that time – Su Lin and her family are Chinese, and the story starts in the middle of a roundup into a killing field – but by focusing on Su Lin and the murder mystery the author avoids the story being overwhelmed by the horror of the times.
I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed this story. I liked the previous ones, but I had a hard time becoming invested in the characters. This time around it wasn’t a problem – the story was riveting enough and the pace fast enough that whether I became wholly invested in the characters didn’t matter. My only complaint was the denouement scene. I understand that the point was the murderer wasn’t rational, but Yu did the job too well and it became extraordinarily difficult to follow along with who supposedly was working with whom and who ordered what, etc. It was a small thing in the overall enjoyment of the story, but it was at the end, so it stuck.
I now find myself eager to dive into the next book, The Cannonball Tree Mystery to find out what happens next with Su Lin, her family, and (former) detective, now POW, Le Froy.
I read this for 2021 Halloween Bingo. It fits the Tropical Terror square rather well, as it is set in Singapore (Tropical) during the WWII Japanese occupation (Terror).