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Review: Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers

4/5 stars

“People always say that your wedding day is the happiest day of your life, but honestly, people should try solving murders more often.”

The epitome of a "cozy murder mystery." I found this book delightful!

Vera Wong Zhuzhu is 60 years old and lives a solitary life, running a small teashop in San Francisco that's seen better days. It's called Vera Wang's World Famous Teahouse. That's not a typo - she named it Vera Wang, despite her name being Wong, because that's a famous person! And while it might not be world famous yet, it sounds good to say it, and maybe some day it will be. Vera is a widow, and her only son, Tilly, mostly ignores her calls, though she leaves him plenty of voicemails with advice about his life (like 4:00 am calls wondering why he's not awake yet - young people should be up and conquering the world!).

Vera is satisfied enough with her life - she loves her shop, and she loves her daily routine. But then one morning she discovers a dead body on the floor of the shop, and with it, finds a grander purpose to life. She notifies the police, but not before she's had a chance to rifle through the pockets of the dead man, and make a "helpful" outline of the body in permanent marker. When the police arrive she tries to share her insights and opinions, as well as, of course, offering them tea - but none are interested in any of the above. The police are useless anyway, she reasons. She will just have to solve this murder on her own.

In the course of investigating the murder of one Marshall Chen, she comes across several people connected to him in one way or another. This includes Julia, Marshall's wife, Oliver, Marshall's brother, and two potentially shady characters, Rikki and Sana, who are clearly hiding their true identities from Vera. All of them are suspects, but, somehow, they also all become friends, because Vera Wong is nothing if not inclusive! She will charm them and cook huge meals for them until someone cracks.

Sure, it's a murder mystery, but the fun of it is less the suspense of it, and more... the friends you make along the way! Vera is a force. Sometimes she pushes too hard, asks too many questions, butts in where she shouldn't, but she always means well, and she's also very funny, even though she doesn't intend to be. I loved the progression of the relationships between all the characters, including all the emotions that friendships come with - sometimes you love 'em, sometimes they drive you crazy. Vera is smart and lovable, and the more she gets involved in the case, the more intertwined she becomes in her so-called suspects' lives.

She's kind of the Leslie Knope of old Asian grandmothers! You can't help but love and respect her, even when she's doing or saying something completely insane.

I really hope Sutanto brings Vera back for a sequel.

In conclusion, "Live, Laugh, Love, Vera Wong."


UP NEXT: Book of Night, by Holly Black

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