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Singapore Noir (Akashic Noir) Paperback – June 3, 2014
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"Do read the book, Singaporeans!"
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"If you like noir and would like to catch up on the seedy underbelly of one of the Four Asian Tigers (Dragons), give this anthology a read."
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Top customer reviews
This book contains short crime stories set in Singapore, each story written by a different author set in a different part of the city-state. As in pretty much any short story collection, you're inevitably going to get stronger stories intermingling with weaker stories, and this is no different. Some stories are quite good, with surprise twist endings; some are okay but not great; others have an interesting start but don't go anywhere, and simply peter out to a weak ending.
As a collection of crime stories, there's no real stand-out, but the book isn't bad either. If you have an interest in Singapore then I'd recommend it. If you simply have an interest in crime stories then I'd still recommend it but just keep in mind that it's not the best collection of crime stories out there.
Singlish, the local patois, a mix of various Chinese dialects, Malay, English and occasionally Tamil, is scattered through the stories, incomprehensible and jarring perhaps to some readers who have yet to be exposed to the language, nonetheless provides the authenticity of the voices in the stories.
Some stories are uncomfortable, some are shocking and some will anger the reader, but what's common among them all is they each elicit a strong reaction.
Singapore Noir may be my favorite so far of the international volumes. In it we are treated to a glimpse of an Eastern city-state that sometimes acts as if it were a Western city, so it is both familiar and exotic at once.
Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan has assembled a wonderful batch of stories that includes everything a noir fan would want - murder, betrayal, adultery, paranoia, schizophrenia, even a little magic.
As with any anthology some stories are better than others, but every one here is worth a read.
Singapore Noir is a short story collection focusing on the darker side of Singapore. I've never previously heard of the Noir books, but apparently Akashic has a whole line of them from a variety of cities and countries such as Boston, Istanbul, Rome, San Diego and Wall Street! From the back of the book: "Say Singapore to anyone and you'll likely hear one of a few words: Caning. Fines. Chewing gum. For much of the West, the narrative of Singapore has been marked largely by its government's strict laws and unwavering enforcement of them. Beneath its sparkling veneer is a country teeming with shadows and in the following pages, you'll get the chance to discover some of them. There is evil, sadness, a foreboding. This is a Singapore rarely explored in Western literature."
This book is comprised of four sections with three or four stories each pertaining to the themes: Sirens, Love (Or Something Like It), Gods & Demons, and The Haves & The Have-Nots. I can't remember if I've read much (or anything) set in Singapore, so this felt like a new experience for me. Most of the tales contain murder, or at least violence, so it might not be for the faint of heart - the material doesn't have a lot of graphic detail***, but if you don't want to read about murder and betrayal, then this probably isn't the book for you.
***Note: There is one tale - Detective In A City With No Crime - that is very sexually explicit, and I wasn't expecting that, so it grossed me out a bit. However, the writing itself was well done and I still enjoyed the story, just not the sexual scenes.
I felt all the stories fit together nicely. Rather than feeling like I was reading a bunch of random murder/mystery stories set in Singapore, it felt more like a novel but with different viewpoints and I enjoyed that. The characters in these stories aren't all natives to Singapore either, so the reader gets more than one type of outlook or lifestyle - one I particularly enjoyed was Kena Sai, which follows an American who relocated to Singapore with his wife and child. Rozan, the author, made the father likeable and his appreciation and experience in Singapore actually made me want to go there, but with this fictional character as my guide!
If you're into murder, mystery and betrayal, this book is for you! I imagine that the other Noir collections are just as gripping and interesting. There were a few stories that left me scratching my head at the end though (which could be a failing on my part), and I get frustrated when I don't understand the ending, especially in a short story, but other than that I really enjoyed this collection!