January 22, 2021

KITAAB

Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Book Review: “Singapore Noir,” edited by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

1 min read
Singapore Noir (US edition cover)
Singapore Noir (US edition cover)

Singapore is a small city-state and island in Southeast Asia. Malaysia borders it to the north and Indonesia to the south. It had been a British colony and Japanese occupation followed during the Second World War. The postwar socioeconomic scene included rapid industrialization and authoritarian rule. Singapore came into the headlines for the US during the caning fracas of Michael Fay in 1994. And in an magazine article, author William Gibson described Singapore as “Disneyland with the death penalty.” How can one write compelling noir stories in a city-state that is authoritarian, industrious, workaholic, and clean? That is the challenge for Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, editor of Akashic’s latest in their long-running Noir series, Singapore Noir. Just as the cuisine of Singapore is a melange of traditional Malay and imported Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and British tastes, so one sees in the international criminal class. It is a nation of contradictions and violence, where prostitution is legal but not spitting on the pavement. There are corrupt Party bosses from the People’s Republic of China, Chinese triads, Japanese yakuza, and the errant Russian mafiya kingpin.

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