Okay, first things first. I read this book for a book club I am a part of and I am so glad that I did. It was funny and cringey in all the best ways. It also starts off in a tea shop and that was a "yes!" from me right off the bat! That being said, you're probably going to be able to guess what my star review is, right?
Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice For Murderers is a novel that follows an eclectic cast of characters, most of whom hail from East and South Asian descent. We have an old woman named Vera who runs an all-but-forgotten tea shop, a not-so-grieving widow, and a few characters who seem to have secrets. Right off the bat, the novel starts off with a murder and Vera, well-meaning and knowledgeable as she is, decides to take it upon herself to find out who the murderer is. After all, what do the cops know? Nothing! They're lazy and don't do any of the things she's seen on her crime shows.
Funnily enough, and this really isn't a spoiler, but the man who is murdered in Vera's shop is one of those people you're okay with being murdered. And as you read, you get more and more okay with it. Our cast features his widow, his brother, a detective who is absolutely sick and tired of Vera nosing her way into her investigation and two seemingly random people. What are the secrets they're hiding? Who killed Marshall? And how is Vera going to figure it all out? This novel, if I had to categorize it, could definitely fall under cozy mystery yet it leans more into comedy than most cozies do. Plus, it centers an older woman who is incredibly nosy and incredibly bossy which, if you're familiar with cozies, is quite the turn from the norm.
My favorite aspect of this novel is the great arc that author Jesse Q. Sutanto gives every single character. The characters are complex, dynamic and relatable from beginning to end. And Vera was definitely a character! There were many times while I was reading this book where I just thought to myself, "oh no, here she goes again." But I had to keep reading because some train wrecks you simply can't look away from. Sometimes it can be a challenge for writers to balance comedy and real-life struggles in a novel but Sutanto does it well, making the characters come alive off the page (or your library app). I would definitely recommend this app to anyone who enjoys comedic novels and cozy mysteries.
What are you reading to kick off the new year?