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Singaporean Mystery #1

Aunty Lee's Delights

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This delectable and witty mystery introduces Rosie "Aunty" Lee, feisty widow, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore's best-loved home cooking restaurant

After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could easily have become one of Singapore's "tai tai," an idle rich lady devoted to mah-jongg and luxury shopping. Instead she threw herself into building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee's Delights, where spicy Singaporean home cooking is graciously served to locals and tourists alike. But when a body is found in one of Singapore's beautiful tourist havens, and when one of her wealthy guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two are likely connected.

The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee's henpecked stepson Mark, his social-climbing wife Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit-billed at first as a pleasure cruise-may mask a deeper purpose. Investigating the murder is rookie Police Commissioner Raja, who quickly discovers that the savvy and well-connected Aunty Lee can track down clues even better than local law enforcement.

Wise, witty and unusually charming, Aunty Lee's Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship and home cooking in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities co-exist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly results.

264 pages, Paperback

First published September 17, 2013

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Ovidia Yu

30 books434 followers

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5 stars
346 (12%)
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68 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 527 reviews
Profile Image for Adrian.
558 reviews197 followers
September 30, 2019
A fun murder mystery and a solid 4 stars

So without the recommendation of one of my good GR friends I would never have known about this book, so I am grateful to Martin for his apt intervention in bringing this to my attention.

I do love mystery or detective books, from Holmes to Morse, from Poirot to Barnaby, from Marple to Foyle, so this was an enjoyable interlude once I finally managed to get hold of the book. I suppose because this is a book set in Singapore, it is more geared to the southern hemisphere and American market, and not heard of in the UK or Europe.
I therefore feel privileged to have had a chance to read this.
It is what I suppose we would call a cosy mystery, as in it is comfortable, easy going, not brutal (well not too overtly brutal (maybe a little violence hinted at)), with little swearing.
The sort of book you could recommend (or read) to one's mum.
Right, so Rosie "Aunty" Lee widowed restauranteur is dropped into the middle of a mystery whilst hosting a meal and wine tasting. Aided inadvertently by Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, she sets out to investigate first a disappearance and then a double murder. With the aid of Nina her trusty housekeeper and kitchen assistant she puts herself in the "firing line" in her attempt to find the murderer. Through twists and turns, from "red herring" to wonderfully sounding Singapore meals, she fights for the truth and to bring the perpetrator to justice.
I would like to read more about Aunty Lee and get to grips with some of the terminology and meals, that said it is difficult to get hold of these books (see first paragraph) and when you can they are stupidly expensive, so we shall have to see.
However it was a fun book, well written and an easy but intricate mystery, well done Ovidia Yu.
Profile Image for Janete on hiatus due health issues.
655 reviews264 followers
March 1, 2022
I read this on Scribd. I loved Aunty Lee character! It's a cosy mystery with realist touches, but it was a bit easy for me to discover who was the murderer.

Synopsys: "This delectable and witty mystery introduces Rosie “Aunty” Lee, feisty widow, amateur sleuth and proprietor of Singapore’s best-loved home cooking restaurant.

After losing her husband, Rosie Lee could easily have become one of Singapore’s “tai tai,” an idle rich lady devoted to an aimless life of mah-jongg and luxury shopping. Instead she threw herself into building a culinary empire from her restaurant, Aunty Lee’s Delights, where spicy Singaporean home cooking is graciously served by Rosie Lee herself to locals and tourists alike. But when a body is found in one of Singapore’s beautiful tourist havens, and when one of her wealthy guests fails to show at a dinner party, Aunty Lee knows that the two are likely connected.

The murder and disappearance throws together Aunty Lee’s henpecked stepson Mark, his social-climbing wife Selina, a gay couple whose love is still illegal in Singapore, and an elderly Australian tourist couple whose visit—billed at first as a pleasure cruise—may mask a deeper purpose. Investigating the murder is rookie Police Commissioner Raja, who quickly discovers that the savvy and well-connected Aunty Lee can track down clues even better than local law enforcement.

Wise, witty and unusually charming, Aunty Lee’s Delights is a spicy mystery about love, friendship and home cooking in Singapore, where money flows freely and people of many religions and ethnicities co-exist peacefully, but where tensions lurk just below the surface, sometimes with deadly results."
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,127 followers
July 17, 2019
The mettlesome (and meddlesome) Aunty Lee and the mouthwatering descriptions of her Singaporean cooking are this book’s special sauce, spicing up an otherwise bland and rather undercooked mystery.

In the beginning I was quite taken with this lovable busybody Aunty Lee, always cooking up a storm, and together with the setting of Singapore and the frequent foodie references, this cozy mystery was indeed shaping up to be a delight. Alas, it all fell apart rapidly, with the resolution of the whodunnit being simultaneously illogical, underwhelming and wrapped up too fast. There are some very cliched character setups – I was half-expecting the author would go on to poke holes in those stereotypes, but instead she doubled down on them.

Cozy mystery is not my genre, so I can’t comment on how well Aunty Lee’s Delights stacks up compared to similar books. It’s cute and might be a fun choice if you had a couple of hours to kill during a stopover in Singapore.
Profile Image for Martin.
327 reviews136 followers
July 6, 2019
Singapore - a safe, law abiding city.
But by the shores of Sentosa Island - a tourist paradise - are two dead women.
Aunty Lee, cafe owner and busybody cannot rest until she solves the murders.

Two newly-weds take an early morning walk along the beautiful beach. . .
“Over there. It looks like a jellyfish; is it? It’s huge!”
“It’s not a jellyfish. It’s just a plastic bag . . .”
“Yes, it’s a jellyfish—I can see its body and its legs and everything. Can’t you see? I think it’s dead. Are there poisonous jellyfish around Sentosa?”
They smelled it before they saw it was no jellyfish.
She screamed. He was sick on the sand. Then they put on their gritty sandals and ran back to the hotel to call the police.

Enter Aunty Lee and her Filipina helper Nina
“Now they are finding bodies on the beach! I tell you, that place is bad luck! Do you know it used to be called Pulau Blakang Mati? That means ‘Island of Death.’ Before your time, of course, but everybody in Singapore will remember. Crazy, right? Go and build a tourist resort in a place called Island of Death.”
“But now it is called Sentosa, right? And the meaning of Sentosa is ‘happy peacefulness’?” Nina kept her eyes focused on her work. Now she was efficiently threading thin, diagonally cut slices of chicken thigh meat onto bamboo skewers, pressing them well together before returning them to their marinade.
“So? They can call it whatever they want—they still found a dead body there, true or not?”
“Ma’am, they also find dead body in the HDB water tank, in the Singapore River, in Serangoon Reservoir. You cannot say all these places got bad luck.”
“I would say all those people had bad luck. But at least we know who they were, right? This one is supposed to be unidentified!”
News that an unidentified woman’s body had been found washed up on a Sentosa beach in a plastic bag had not made it into any of the Singapore morning papers, but it had been the hottest news online and over the radio all day. For once, the radio in Aunty Lee’s Delights had been turned on all day, switching between local stations for updates.

A cook extraordinaire
“Do you think they’ve found any more bodies? Turn on the TV again. Go to CNN. Sometimes, if it’s big enough, Singapore news comes out there before it reaches Singapore.”
“If they find more bodies, then it is more likely accident, ma’am. Maybe it is a boat sinking.”
“Or a mass murder!” Aunty Lee said with relish. “One of those serial killers. After all, if you are going to go through all the trouble of arranging to throw somebody into the sea, why stop at one body, right?”
As she spoke, Aunty Lee was rapidly cutting up cucumbers with all the attention she normally paid to cooking, which was not much. She cooked the way some people drove—while carrying on conversations, applying lipstick, and texting messages—trusting the instinct that came with long practice and only focusing on the main task when something unexpected came up or went wrong.
Fortunately Aunty Lee did not drive.

A short interlude for a short story
“An old cowboy sat down at the bar and ordered a drink. As he sat sipping his drink, a young woman sat down next to him. She turned to the cowboy and asked, ‘Are you a real cowboy?’
“He replied, ‘Well, I’ve spent my whole life breaking colts, working cows, going to rodeos, fixing fences, pulling calves, bailing hay, doctoring calves, cleaning my barn, fixing flats, working on tractors, and feeding my dogs, so I guess I am a cowboy.’
“She said, ‘I’m a lesbian. I spend my whole day thinking about women. As soon as I get up in the morning, I think about women. When I shower, I think about women. When I watch TV, I think about women. I even think about women when I eat. It seems that everything makes me think of women.’
“A little while later, a man sat down on the other side of the old cowboy and asked, ‘Are you a real cowboy?’
“He replied, ‘I always thought I was, but I just found out I’m a lesbian.’ ”

Nina switches her English into "maid speak"
“You work in the café also?” Salim (the policeman) asked the maid. The question would have sounded purely conversational to anyone unfamiliar with Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower rule that stated that a foreign domestic helper “shall not engage in any form of employment, paid or unpaid, other than that of a Domestic Helper.”
Nina was only too aware that Aunty Lee could be fined and she herself deported if this man decided to make trouble. Even as she decided she didn’t like him, Nina knew she could not let him see she did not like him. She gave him a wide, shy smile that could have meant anything.
“How long have you been working in Singapore?”
“Sir, I like work in Singapore very much!” Nina beamed to make up for the abrupt deterioration of her spoken English.

Nina at the police interview
“I will take down your statement,” Salim said smoothly. “But that is a separate matter. I still have to follow up on his complaint. Are you here on a domestic helper visa?”
“No, I am here on a ‘secret mission to marry a rich man and steal all his money to go back to the Philippines’ visa!”

Clues and red herrings are as mixed up as Aunty Lee's relatives and customers. Everyone seems to hide a secret. How can this old lady find the truth?

An added bonus - full descriptions of mouth-watering Singapore recipies are laid out for all to eat.

Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,049 followers
January 14, 2019
A fun read from a well loved Singaporean author - a crime novel set at her family restaurant. First in a series and I found it in hoopla! Recommended for people who already read the Kevin Kwan novels and want more with a similar feel. I'll definitely read more in this series.
Profile Image for Wanda Pedersen.
1,860 reviews369 followers
September 20, 2022
Halloween Bingo 2022

Aunty Rosie Lee is the delight in this book. She is an older lady who has a shrewd view of her world, a lively mind, a calm demeanor, and a powerful desire to see that right is done. She knows the power of being an elderly woman and not only embraces it but is willing to weaponize it. She is a Singaporean Miss Marple with a small restaurant and her devoted helper Nina, who is Watson to Aunty's Holmes.

Poor Senior Staff Sergeant Samir doesn't know what's hit him. He suddenly has Aunty Lee showing up in his office with delicious food (don't worry, there's food for everyone, no one will be jealous) and with hot information. Like the police in the more recent The Thursday Murder Club, he learns to just go with it, because he is dealing with someone who gets things done!

I am glad to see that there are more Aunty Lee books available. I can hardly wait to see what this lively lady gets up to next. Aunty Lee is my Amateur Sleuth for Halloween Bingo.

10 reviews
August 8, 2018
Before reading: I like mystery, and I love food. The book promises an adventure set in Singapore, a country that I would love to learn more about, set with the backdrop of a local diner, run by the nosy, if ultimately helpful, Rosie “Auntie” Lee. Reminds me of murder mystery dinners, and I would like to see how such a premise would play out in a book.
The Great: I really enjoyed how the author portrayed Singapore’s culture. It’s evident that the author is familiar with its culture and customs, and she felt very comfortable writing about it. The exposition about how the characters fit into the social fabric of Singapore was cool to see. I definitely came away with a better understanding of Singapore and its people by the end of the book.
The Good: The description of the food found in the book is pretty good. Both the Singaporean and Indian food that were described in the book sounded appealing and made me want to eat it. When the book promises “love, friendship, and food,” it delivered on one those fronts.
The Bad: Both the character and plot are not great. For such a short book, it introduces way too many characters, and ends up not developing most of them beyond a few defining traits. The plot moves slowly for much of the book, the rapidly progresses for the last three chapters, leaving the reader with an incomplete understanding of what actually happened. The book likes to throw new information, both about the plot and the characters, at the reader with no indication or foreshadowing,
The Terrible: The pacing is absolutely abysmal. Every time the characters say or think something, they have to be interrupted by some exposition about why they said or thought that. It was fine at the beginning, when we are learning about the characters, but it become so jarring at the halfway point. Whenever the plot starts moving, it is stopped to give the characters more exposition, only to start moving abruptly several paragraphs later.
After reading: The concept is interesting enough, but the entire story is weight down by the aforementioned pacing issues. This, along with the uninteresting, one-dimensional characters, none of whom are likeable, makes the book a chore to read through. Worse, the story slaps the reader in the face by explaining the solution to the mystery so poorly that it might as well not have been explained at all. There is no hint at the killer, no meaningful evidence gathering, just “yep, that’s the killer” by the end. It’s frankly an insult to mysteries. The good things I’ve said don’t outweigh the negatives in any way. Avoid the book, there is no reason to read it.
Profile Image for Vicky Marie.
268 reviews16 followers
March 7, 2016
Too many unnecessary povs. The story was bogged down with tons of back story that brought nothing to the plot, and the characters were all unlikeable. I was looking forward to this series, but alas it looks like I won't be continuing it.
Profile Image for Jaylia3.
752 reviews131 followers
July 15, 2014
Motherly, list compiling, sharp but with a tendency to act strategically distracted, Auntie Lee is a wealthy Singaporean widow who runs a restaurant just because she’s curious (nosy) and enjoys being of service, though not everyone actually appreciates this. When the bodies of two young women wash up on the local beach Auntie Lee is convinced the police could use her help--after all, both women have eaten at her restaurant--and she’s not wrong because tasty gifts of Singaporean delicacies allow Auntie Lee to push her way through closed doors and ask a lot of questions.

Food lore and Auntie Lee’s cooking inspired philosophies are part of the fun, and the story is told from multiple points of view which is especially entertaining because there’s an international multicultural cast: Singaporean residents who are ethnic Chinese, Indian, Malay, Eurasian, and Filipino, and tourists from America and Australia. Not all of those characters are likeable, but while the solution wasn’t a complete shock there were still surprising twists and turns and the story is irresistible.
Profile Image for Ryan.
576 reviews21 followers
December 9, 2014
As most of you know by know, I'm a huge mystery fan, though I tend to prefer older mysteries over the ones being written today. With very few exceptions, I'm not a fan of "cozy" mysteries, and the vast majority of modern mysteries I have enjoyed, tend to be more along the lines of a police procedural. With all that in mind, you may be surprised that I agreed to review Aunty Lee's Delights by Ovidia Yu. As you can tell from the synopsis, this is what most would consider a "cozy" mystery. It's a little old lady, who is a culinary enchantress, solving a murder or two, as she dispenses advice and feeds those around her. But I have a fondness for little old ladies, how can you not love Jane Marple and Maud Silver. Besides, it's set in Singapore. How could I not want to review a mystery set in Singapore, a city/country I have always wanted to visit.

To be perfectly frank with you guys, through the first 1/3 of the book, I was kicking myself for my choice. Singapore be damned, I just was not getting into this story at all. The characters, even Aunty Lee, were getting on my nerves. The story and dialogue felt choppy, and I was getting tired of googling every word I wasn't familiar with. I can't say that any of those issues ever really changed for me, I think they remained issues for the entire length of the book. But for some bizarre, inexplicable reason, they stopped mattering to me as much.

Aunty Lee will never be in the league of Miss Marple or Miss Silver, but her open heart and good nature, are cause enough to forgive her blunt form of being a busy body. The rest of the characters, with few exceptions, I can take or leave them. They tended to be overly whiny, full of themselves, or too concerned with appearances to really take them into my heart. Even the killer was whiny, and that's one thing I can never forgive in a mystery. I want the killer to be confident and strong, or at the last clear in their motives. This time around, we are treated to a self absorbed whiner who doesn't stand a chance against a true villain.

I did like Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, who is the rookie investigating the case, not as the synopsis claims Commissioner Raja, who is Salim's boss, and not a rookie at all. Now for some odd reason, the synopsis has this wrong, as do most of the reviews I've read of this book. I'm not sure how so many are missing this, but it's not fair to Salim.

I liked the three secondary gay characters, one was the girlfriend of one of the dead women, the other two were the son of the Australian couple, and his Chinese boyfriend. It's in the way the author treated these characters with dignity and respect, despite the way some of the other characters treated them, that truly won my heart. But it was really in the way, that despite the limited page time these characters had, their stories forced the entire book to revolve around them. This was a murder mystery that happens because one of the victims was gay, and everything she was trying to do in order to live her life. Everything else that happens in the book, spins off of that one fact.

I'm not sure if this book is, or will be, part of a series. I'm not even sure I would read another if it was, but I will say that I'm glad I read this one. I may not be in love with Aunty Lee the way I am with Miss Marple, but she was fun to meet and spend a few hours with.
Profile Image for Lovely Day.
664 reviews85 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
February 13, 2023
DNFd at 66%

I found it boring, but also the social agenda that snuck in annoyed me.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,733 reviews648 followers
August 24, 2016
I tend to justify this prolonged sojourn with mystery books as a vacation break. With that perspective, Aunty Lee is quite enjoyable. A well-off widow who bores easily with the upper crust life, she first starts a catering business. Then, she expands it to a restaurant and we witness her debut as an amateur detective. Entertaining but not compelling, I am sure that somewhere down the line I will pick up another book in the series.

Has Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple been the role-model for elderly female snoops? Aunty Lee shares Miss Marple’s penchant for gossip and Ovidia Yu adds some delightful Singapore color along with Aunty Lee’s talents at serving a particular type of home cuisine at her restaurant, Aunty Lee’s Delights.

Singapore is an exotic city to me and my hopes included getting a sense of the main aspects of it. We get everything from the Bukt Tingg Community to the Binjai Park neighborhood that Aunty Lee calls home. We get some sense of how the police force is perceived and how it operates. Politics and business help form the background. We are introduced to an enterprise that combines aspects of Aunty Lee’s restaurant and her son’s wine import business. The guests at a wine tasting form the core of our interest when first one woman is found washed up on shore and then another goes missing. The plot takes few surprising turns but the resolution is satisfactory.

Profile Image for Lyn Elliott.
687 reviews177 followers
May 9, 2020
A thoroughly enjoyable light mystery set in Singapore, Aunty Lee’s Delights is the first of several in a series featuring insatiably curious restaurant owner, the middle-aged widow known as Aunty Lee.
I most enjoyed the Singapore background and characters, the plot rattles along well enough without any major surprises and Aunty Lee, like Miss Marple, helps the police to find their way to the villain.
Profile Image for oshizu.
340 reviews31 followers
April 21, 2020
I'm a fan of culinary mysteries and this one was chock full of scrumptious descriptions of Singaporean cuisine. The protagonist is an elderly widow, a busybody and divine cook. Overflowing with local flavor.
Immensely enjoyed this book and will be continuing the series.
Profile Image for Kathy .
698 reviews232 followers
June 22, 2014
I was fortunate enough to meet and spend time with Ovidia Yu at last year's Bouchercon in Albany. She is without a doubt one of the nicest, most gracious people I've ever met. I didn't know of her successful background as one of Singapore's premiere writers at that time, and she never allluded to it. Humble is another adjective to add to nice and gracious, as is intelligent. So, I was able to get a copy of Aunty Lee's Delights, her first published U.S. work, and have it signed by Ovidia. Now, I can't explain or excuse myself for having taken this long to get around to reading it. My mistake and my missing out. Aunty Lee's Delight is a first rate cozy, with a cast of characters who will charm, puzzle, aggravate, and bemuse you. As if the novel itself isn't entertaining enough, there is an interview conducted by Louise Penny of Ovidia at the end of the book. In that interview, Ovidia states that Louise, in writing about Canada, gave her the courage to write about her home place, Singapore. Well, readers will be glad she received that boost of courage from the amazing Louise Penny. Singapore turns out to be quite an interesting setting, and the food that Aunty Lee cooks up in her shop is new and fascinating to me.

At a beach resort off Singapore called Sentosa, a body of a young woman washes ashore. With her identification comes the knowledge that Aunty Lee is acquainted with the deceased and feels compelled to discover what happened to her. It's certain that murder has occurred, as the body was wrapped up when found. There is a connection with the wine dinings that Aunty Lee's stepson has initiated at Aunty Lee's Delight's, Aunty's restaurant. Aunty Lee considers anyone whom she has fed her business or extended family, and she quietly begins to untangle the web of lies and secrets surrounding the death of the young woman and disappearance of another. Ovidia Yu credits Agatha Christie with her "falling in love with reading," and like Miss Marple, Aunty Lee seems to know everybody in the vicinity of the victim's world. Aunty Lee calmly and discreetly digs into the lives of the people around her, using her food as her secret weapon to break down the walls people throw up around themselves.

Ovidia Yu has done a masterful job of creating interesting characters, and their interactions with one another are entertaining and informative. Aunty Lee, whose name is Rose Lee, is a widowed and quite well off, but she refuses to set back and take it easy. She is a participant in life, not a bystander. Her relationship with her stepson Mark and his wife Selina is a hoot. Aunty Lee calls Selina Silly-Na. Nina is Aunty Lee's maid/assistant and a pretty sharp cookie herself. Senior Staff Sergeant(SSS) Salim is a likeable, capable person to be in charge of the murder investigation, and he is smart enough to listen to Aunty Lee with her gift of detecting. And, in amongst all the witty dialogue and great food are a gay couple who bring a serious, meaningful presence to the plot. Their love is illegal in Singapore, and, yet, they are willing to face the odds to stand for their equality.

So, Ovidia Yu gives readers a special treat with this new series. She entertains us and still manages to address important issues. I am so looking forward to reading the next installment of the Aunty Lee books. It's especially pleasing that this author is as talented at writing as she is at being an outstanding human being.
Profile Image for Irene Sauman.
Author 8 books33 followers
June 6, 2016
This is a cultural as well as a culinary view of Singapore, cultural in the sense of the people and their attitudes.
Aunty Lee has opened an eatery known as Aunty Lee's Delights following the death of her husband.
She understands people by the way they eat and she applies this to solving the murders that comes her way and in dealing with relationships. These include her stepson Mark and his wife Selina, who's name Aunty Lee pronounces as "Silly-Nah", her maid Nina and Senior Staff Sergeant Salim. A box of food always accompanies her visits to gather information.
This story does not shy away from the social mores of the place, in this instance, the attitudes to same sex relationships and 'treatment'. The author, and Aunty Lee, handle it well.
An interesting and enjoyable cozy mystery. I've already downloaded the next in the series from my local library's ebook collection.
Profile Image for Joy.
662 reviews
January 31, 2019
3.5 stars

The title character and her cooking are absolutely the highlights of Aunty Lee’s Delights. The prose feels a bit stilted and choppy in places, and the mystery becomes overly complicated, I think. I’ve had this book on my radar for a while, and I’m glad I read it, but I doubt I’ll continue with the series.
Profile Image for Dawn Michelle.
2,328 reviews
January 12, 2019
This was an interesting book in many ways.
This wasn't even on my radar as I had bought this for my Mom [after she bought the second book at at book sale] and then my friend that I am doing the Read Around the World challenge with mentioned that the author is from Singapore and that the mystery itself was set in Singapore and voila! we decided to read it.

I will say that this book is somewhat choppy - it seems...jumpy? if that is the right word. At certain points, I wasn't really sure just who was speaking and just where they were in the city. And I had to look up quite a few words as well as all the food references since I have never had [and probably never will since there seems to be a heavy influence of anchovies in their diet. Blech. Though the potato curry puffs sounds freaking amazing and I'd eat those all day long] Singaporean food. That said...
I LOVE the characters in this book. Aunty Lee is freaking hilarious and her maid Nina is also a really great character - long suffering and grateful and just trying to please and do a good job. Aunty is nosy and a bit pushy, but because she is an "elderly" Asian woman, she is respected and almost revered and therefore gets away with A LOT of baloney. I liked all the side characters as well, except for the stupid DIL, but you aren't supposed to like her so there is that. ;-)
I had some of the story figured out, but not the murder [which made sense when it was revealed] and that added to the story.

I would read the second one simply based on how much I loved the character of Aunty Lee, and hopefully some of the issues that I had with the writing style and choppiness will be resolved. If not, I will still read it because I really like the characters that much.
Profile Image for Athirah Idrus.
211 reviews6 followers
November 13, 2022
Actual rating: 4.5 stars

Why this book is so underrated is beyond my comprehension. It has a good blend of what makes a good cosy mystery. It features an amateur sleuth in the form of a kaypoh aunty who likes to nose around more than she should and bribes people with her delicious food to get her information.

Aunty Lee is not your regular Tai Tai. After the death of her beloved husband, she lavishes all her energy and attention into her food business where she owns and personally operates her restaurant – Aunty Lee’s Delights. After one of her regular patrons went missing, her keen intuition tells her that it might have to do with a body that was recently found on Sentosa island.

I have to point that I am drawn to this story not so much because of the mystery, but more of the characters. I feel like the author did a good job in portraying a myriad personality across racial lines that represent Singapore pretty well. There were good, bad and morally grey characters that didn’t feel fake. I particularly like the relationship between Aunty Lee and her Filipino helper, Nina. It’s refreshing to see the contrast of the treatment between Aunty Lee and Selina with Nina, someone who is deemed ‘beneath’ them in the social fabric of Singapore’s elite.

Another plus point is the description of food. Aunty Lee is described to be an amazing cook, especially her Peranakan dishes and she’s always happy to be serving people. In one scene, she even serves Nasi Lemak and after reading that part, I had a hankering for it and had my Nasi Lemak the very next morning!

If you’re tired of reading good stories but with vile characters who get away with things, here’s a believable, feel-good book for you. Bonus if you want a Southeast Asia setting!
Profile Image for Michael.
393 reviews5 followers
November 22, 2013
I feel almost evil commenting on Ovidia Yu - THE Ovidia Yu who wrote all those wonderful plays but I promised her I was going to be honest with her writing effort.

Aunty Lee does follow the stereotype of all those nosy ladies who solve crimes while having other things to do in life (it's call work/life balance, guys) and she feels comfortably Singaporean (I have a sneaky suspicion Ovidia took her inspiration from a certain dining/antique shop along Katong)

The language is not flowery (which does make it a breeze to read) and what is a good mystery without being peppered with an assortment of multiracial characters (and the young malay inspector who knows silat)?

Interestingly enough, she doesn't write PC dialogue so there are comments/set pieces/dialogues that would feel out of place in our more enlightened times (I can hear Aunty Lee chortling) and it does reflect the darker side of how people view/judge each other in their own privacy, which is really rare.

The plot does take a strange turn half way into the book and if 1/2 a star need to be taken off the rating, it would be the heady rush in which the plot unfolds itself like a deep fried onion from Outback steakhouse, revealing many secrets at a go.

I would have preferred it to be a more gently fried keropok instead. A piece unfurling at a time.

Nevertheless, I look forward to book 2 (I am sure we will hear more from Nina, the foreign domestic help with a mind of her own, like all good side kick)

Tighter plot lines please.
Profile Image for Kristen.
2,071 reviews131 followers
December 21, 2015
In Ovidia Yu's Aunty Lee's Delights, the first installment in the Singaporean culinary cozy mystery series, we were introduced to life and culture in Singapore's beaches. It all started when a body was washed up on the shore, when two young women were reported missing. For "Aunty" Lee, it was up to discover the truth behind the disappearance of the two young women and how they knew each other. Lurking in the midst was a slimy character named Harry Sullivan who had a shady past and mucked things up for them. Besides running her own restaurant, Aunty Lee tried to make sense of things, when some of her patrons who came for a wine testing had a secret to share. As she unraveled this mystery like a barn of yarn, things hit too close to home to Aunty, when she learned the shocking truth behind it all.
Profile Image for Sharon Chance.
Author 5 books42 followers
September 19, 2013
What a pure delight to read! I want an Aunty Lee in my life. This delightful, but nosy little plump Singaporean lady could go up against Miss Marple or Jessica Fletcher and come out a winner.

This fun and lively mystery is fast-paced, filled with memorable characters that you will love (and in Aunty's niece-in-law's case, dislike a little!) and an intriguing mystery to boot! What more could you ask for? Plus you get to learn a whole lot about Singapore and it's foodie culture!

I adored this book and hope you will rush out to discover it as well!
Profile Image for Katherine.
22 reviews
January 26, 2015
I was so looking forward to discovering a new series -- the idea of a mystery set in Singapore was intriguing. But I hated most of the characters, the writing was formulaic, and the murders had no real or compelling motive. The solving of them felt like something tacked on just to end the book. Such a shame, because the concept was interesting, and the cover was beautifully designed.
Profile Image for Georgiana 1792.
1,835 reviews110 followers
July 16, 2021
Un cozy mystery molto gradevole, ambientato a Singapore con al centro il locale di Rosie Lee, che tutti chiamano Aunty, Aunty Lee's Delights, appunto, che dà il titolo al romanzo, aprendo la serie. Aunty Lee è la ricca vedova di M. L. Lee, ma ama cucinare e ha voluto aprire il ristorante nella zona di Binjai Park, che produce specialità di Singapore così prelibate che, dopo aver assaggiato i suoi piatti, di rado i clienti riusciranno a trovarne alla stessa altezza.
Oltre a cucinare, a Aunty Lee piace anche ficcanasare, quindi figuriamoci quanto diventa curiosa quando scopre che il cadavere di una giovane donna non identificata è stato ritrovato sulla spiaggia di Sentosa da una coppia in luna di miele. La vecchietta freme assieme alla sua cameriera/dama di compagnia Nina, una filippina, nella speranza di scoprire qualcosa in più. E, in effetti, è destinata a scoprire di più, perché l'omicidio è collegato a persone che frequentano l'Aunty Lee's Delights. Stranamente, anche il poliziotto a cui è affidata l'indagine, il sergente maggiore Salim Mawar (Senior Staff Sergeant Salim, spesso abbreviato SSS Salim), capta le doti analitiche della vecchia signora e si fa aiutare da lei per condurre l'indagine. Un'indagine che fa riflettere sulle condizioni della comunità LGBT a Singapore, dove non solo non sono legali relazioni tra due persone dello stesso sesso, ma addiruìittura ci sono dei centri in cui si praticano delle disintossicazioni, delle cure (per lo meno, era così nel 2013, quando questo libro è stato pubblicato).
Alla fine, come spesso capita in questi cozy mistery culinari, ci sono alcune delle ricette della protagonista, ma, come dice lei all'interno del romanzo, anche seguendo pedissequamente la ricetta, non sempre il cibo avrà lo stesso sapore, perché la cucina è fatta anche di esperienza.
(She was frequently asked for recipes and accused of withholding vital ingredients when these did not produce the desired result. In truth, she withheld nothing, but she could not give instructions for instinct. That had to be developed over years of experience.)
Sicuramente leggerò altri libri di Ovidia Yu, anche se non fremo certo d'impazienza a ritrovare Selina, la moglie del figlio di primo letto di M. L. Lee, Mark, che è una persona odiosa!
Profile Image for Rainy Rose.
230 reviews29 followers
August 1, 2021
This book is all about this one kaypoh Aunty Lee who played detective on murder cases of two young women who used to eat at her cafe, Aunty Lee's Delights. Kaypoh means busybody here, because she kept turning here and there, interrogating everyone that seemed related to the case. She's doing the police's job more than the polices themselves in this book! And the reason? Because she felt that anyone who ate her food automatically became her family (I seriously can't wrapped my head around this reasoning, I mean, what if the whole Singapore came to eat her food then? She had to mind all their businesses too?). The book was quite slow for me. I was expecting more on Aunty Lee's focus on her delicacies instead of her going around interrogating people. The ending was good though. I was just not too into the plots I guess.
Profile Image for Dani(elle).
563 reviews5 followers
June 7, 2021
I like the characters more than I like the mystery, and really it is Aunty Lee that sells it. She is the Singaporean Miss Marple, or to put it another way, that busy body Auntie who solves crimes while she scolds you for leaving food on your plate.

The background characters made me worried as many of them were dicks and homophobes, but the ending messaging makes it clear that that is the opinion of the characters not the author.

The weakest element was the mystery which was just okay. I wish we got to know any of the victims before they died to build a connection with them. And the conversion therapy red herring was a little late in the game to serve as a really possibility.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
2,378 reviews51 followers
January 28, 2021
Although I borrowed this book expecting a light food cozy mystery, I was very pleasantly surprised that this book, while still a cozy mystery, and still containing many mouth-watering descriptions of food, is also a character-driven social commentary of life in Singapore. The way in which Ovidia Yu describes the characters, including all their faults, secrets, and class/cultural prejudices, with nuance and compassion shows her personal knowledge and experience growing up and living in Singapore. (Though this shouldn't be refreshing, it is, considering the sheer number of cozy mysteries set in Asia written by white men, who as per the colonial norm, feel entitled to use other people's countries, cultures, and physical appearance to rake in money.)

I loved Aunty Lee and many of the women characters in this book. Many of them are portrayed as competent, quietly strong women who, even with their faults, are striving to do what is right and to protect their families. This reminded me of the aunties and grandmas in my family in a way that I rarely see represented. The character of Aunty Lee hits a sweet spot for me in terms of a cozy investigator. She's not the crotchety misanthropic old lady sleuth, or the pompous genius; she's also not the foolish amateur who makes silly decisions and takes risks. As is characteristic of cozies, her personal relationships and her social networks (including that of her domestic worker/family friend) and her human compassion, combined with her sharp mind, are what help her help the police solve the murders in this book.

Some people might find the food analogies cheesy, but I appreciated them, probably because my family and my language of love is and probably always will be, through food. I loved that Aunty Lee feeding everyone in the book, though an effective way in which to extract information from people, isn't solely from self-interest. Though she is partially being manipulative through cooking for others, at the core of it is always the desire to care for others. One quote that stuck with me from Aunty Lee is, "You say it's not my business, but all hungry people are my business," because all people who she feeds as guests are her family. I found this unexpectedly moving, because my family feels the same way. If we invite you into our homes and feed you, then you are family, and you will be cared for as such.

P.S. I wasn't surprised by the killer

P.P.S. It was refreshing to see multiple different ethnicities and socioeconomic classes portrayed in this book because it was written by a Singaporean author who lives in a society that functions in a caste system different than that of the US/Canada, which, for obvious reasons, is where the majority of books that I read are originate.
Profile Image for Gaby.
649 reviews22 followers
September 4, 2013
I ordered Aunty Lee's Delights after seeing the enthusiastic blurb by Louise Penny, one of my favorite authors. There were a lot of things that drew me to Ovidia Uy's detective novel. I'm a huge fan of detective cozies and I've spent plenty of time in Southeast Asia and was looking forward to a mystery set in Singapore.

Aunty Lee reminded me a bit of Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple. We learn that Aunty Lee has a reputation for solving small mysteries among her friends and acquaintances. When she learns of a body found on one of Singapore's tourist beaches, Aunty Lee can't help but puzzle over who might have died and why. Aunty Lee's Delights is booked for a private wine tasting which she complements with her distinctive Pelacan dishes, and throughout the prep period and hosting her guests, Aunty Lee is fixed on finding out as much as she can about the death. When it later turns out that she knows woman who showed up on the beach, Aunty Lee takes the death personally. She takes it upon herself to investigate, looking into avenues that the police wouldn't be aware of, and her gentle questioning and contacts gives her a unique chance to discover the truth.

Aunty Lee doesn't hesitate to pry, but she does it in such a way that I found myself imagining everyone around her shaking their heads with wry smiles. Aunty Lee's interaction with the young Police Commissioner Raja had me chuckling - it reminded me of Miss Marple and how she'd exasperated the local detectives in Saint Mary's Mead. I found many of the supporting characters in the novel likable. PC Raja was one of the more memorable characters - hardworking, good natured, and appreciative of Aunty Lee's kindnesses. Aunty Lee's Filipina maid/assistant Nina proved to be smart and quite able to deal with the petty slights and machinations of Aunty Lee's daughter-in-law Selina.

While the solution of mystery wasn't particularly stunning, I loved Aunty Lee's Delights because of the characters that she'd created. I'm very much looking forward to reading Aunty Lee's next adventure.

ISBN-10: 0062227157 - Paperback $14.99
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (September 17, 2013), 288 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the publisher.
Profile Image for Jillian.
650 reviews7 followers
October 4, 2017
I came to this book through a search in order to recommend a crime novel for my book club. I wanted a novel about crime detection set in Asia and by an Asian author, rather than an ex-pat. Ovidia Yu's books fit the bill. I think I chose well. Aunty Lee is smart, observant and persistent - in the style of cosy, wise woman/busybody sleuths. Instead of knitting, Aunty Lee cooks. In the style of some US cosy crime, the book comes with one of Aunty Lee's recipes at the back.

The characters are international (as one would expect in a Singapore setting) the issues both timeless and contemporary. Yu exhibits a wry humour and has a nice turn of phrase.

" Marianne said that It wasn't their fault. She said traditional Indian families in Asia are always overprotective, especially of their daughters.

Aunty Lee would have thought traditional families everywhere in the world were protective of their daughters."

"As far as Aunty Lee was concerned, people ought to go through the ideas they carried around in their heads as regularly as they turned out their store cupboards"

Aunty Lees' Delights has echoes of many past crime novels, many identified by Yu herself in the interview appended to this edition.

I enjoyed it for these echoes, it's contemporary Singapore setting and characters who are set to develop over the series (which I ordered in advance of reading the first!).
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