The Feng Shui Detective Goes South (Chameleon Press, Hong Kong 2002) reveals yet again Nury Vittahi’s talent for writing crime fiction in a humorous mode. As in The Feng Shui Detective, C.F. Wong, the great Feng Shui master, and his American-Australian intern, Joyce, are confronted by an intriguing case of kidnapping which will force Wong out of his comfort zone to take him to Sydney, Australia. There are other cases on the boil as well but in this novel the talents of The Shanghai Union of Industrial Mystics, who played a minor role in Vittachi’s first novel, will be severely taxed. All the ingredients of crime fiction are present, kidnappers, murders, even the ever powerful Triad.
It is feasible to read the novel merely as a very funny adventure story. To do so, however, misses the point of Vittachi’s writing. Leaving no stone unturned in this study of postcolonial multicultural Singapore, Vittachi reveals the extent to which the rich racial mix is flawed, classist and racist. Wong’s ability to accept “the other” will be severely taxed when Joyce takes him to a disco. The clothes, personalities and manners of Joyce’s crowd leave him speechless and he can not move beyond referring to these strange nocturnal beings and their unintelligible speech as “creatures”. His meeting with a West Indian rapper is just beyond his comprehension and he flees in bewildered fright. Similarly, Sydney, will test his ability to understand and accept “the other” even more so when the Opera House becomes the site of the most frightening of evil “chis” he has ever confronted. It is impossible to take Vittachi’s writing lightly as his searing irony dismantles social mores and belief systems, among many other things.