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Book Review: The Night Tiger

Plot:

When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

Review:

This novel is based on a murder mystery set in Malaya in the 1930s. There is a LOT of superstitions about death which is mentioned in this novel. 

Character wise: Choo has her characters named after the five Confucian Virtues and their stories are brought together by fate. From the start, we are told one of the main characters Ren has a dead twin brother Yi. Ten is the virtue of humanity. Yi is righteousness. Ji Lin is named for knowledge/wisdom. I thought the retelling of dreams would be interesting however I did find the writing style could have been improved for the – not older audience but for those that need attention to detail. 

Ren is orphan who’s master is a dying British doctor who leaves a mission for Ren – to find his lost finger and bury it with the doctor within 49 days or his master’s soul will never be at peace. 

Ji Lin works in a dance hall (moonlighting at night) as she is trying to pay off her mother’s debt. One of the guys she dances with gives her a glass vial with a finger in it. This guy died shortly after. 

Choo’s plot intertwines the fate of these two characters. These characters are interesting the way they are described and written however the length of this novel did put me off at times. The novel shows an overlap of the British colonial rule on an Eastern society at this time as well as an ancient culture in which values are sometimes at odds with modern life. I like how Choo created a detailed environment that shows the ancient superstitions and how they can live with modern medicine and policing. 

3/5 Stars


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