Dark tales of Singapore

Dark tales of Singapore
Singapore Noir
Singapore Noir, edited by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan features 14 stories of crime and suspense in the island, written by authors local and foreign.

SINGAPORE - Singapore Noir is a book that very likely could not have existed just five years ago.

At least five of the 14 darkly stylish tales of crime here are written by local authors echoing growing grievances of heartlanders online and offline: an increasingly crowded island and decreasing expectation of an appropriate reward for such discomfort.

Stories such as Colin Cheong's Smile, Singapore, about a taxi driver driven to extremes, or Johann S. Lee's Current Escape, about the wealthy's perceived immunity against punishment, provide striking contrasts to tales such as British writer Lawrence Osborne's Tattoo, in which a Japanese executive samples the surface delights of Singapore, or New York-based S.J. Rozan's Kena Sai, in which an expatriate refuses to be uprooted from an island he has come to love.

Each of the authors has a different perspective on the island and all are valid.

A straight reading of this anthology edited by Singapore-born and New York-based Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan is also good fun for fans of noir.

Most stories conform to stereotypes of the genre, with world-weary protagonists (Simon Tay in Detective In A City With No Crime, Philip Jeyaretnam's Strangler Fig) and femme fatales (Colin Goh's neat and evocative Last Time).

Many build up suspense tightly if predictably - editor Tan's chilling Reel lacked motive but provided heaps of atmosphere - and even the predictable tales have flair enough to retain the reader's interest.

There are a few stories that neatly twist the idea of noir.

Ovidia Yu mixes spices with the supernatural in Spells, a diabolically discomforting tale in which victim and hero are difficult to define.

Yu is building a reputation as an author of cosy detective literature as well and her second novel about a crime-solving cook, Aunty Lee's Deadly Specials, is out later this year.

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