Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto #BookReview #Mystery #5starReview

A lonely shopkeeper takes it upon herself to solve a murder in the most peculiar way in this captivating mystery by Jesse Q. Sutanto, bestselling author of Dial A for Aunties.

Vera Wong is a lonely little old lady—ah, lady of a certain age—who lives above her forgotten tea shop in the middle of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite living alone, Vera is not needy, oh no. She likes nothing more than sipping on a good cup of Wulong and doing some healthy detective work on the Internet about what her Gen-Z son is up to.

Then one morning, Vera trudges downstairs to find a curious thing—a dead man in the middle of her tea shop. In his outstretched hand, a flash drive. Vera doesn’t know what comes over her, but after calling the cops like any good citizen would, she sort of . . . swipes the flash drive from the body and tucks it safely into the pocket of her apron. Why? Because Vera is sure she would do a better job than the police possibly could, because nobody sniffs out a wrongdoing quite like a suspicious Chinese mother with time on her hands. Vera knows the killer will be back for the flash drive; all she has to do is watch the increasing number of customers at her shop and figure out which one among them is the killer.

What Vera does not expect is to form friendships with her customers and start to care for each and every one of them. As a protective mother hen, will she end up having to give one of her newfound chicks to the police?

Thank you to Berkley publishers for the free digital copy of this book.

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murders by Jesse Q. Sutanto is a cozy-ish murder mystery with Vera Wong, a tea shop owner, as the amateur sleuth. But that’s just the story on the surface. Underneath the mystery lies relevant cultural issues that impact immigrants to the US and their first-generation children raised here, which gives the story an unexpected poignancy and relevance that stayed with me long after I finished the book.

My Reading Experience:

I loved how this story took me through my full range of emotions, from laughing out loud over the things Vera says and does to shedding tears when events led Vera to an unexpected point in the story. Underneath the murder mystery is a story about family born and family found, love in all its forms, and just being relevant in a world where it’s easy to feel irrelevant.

The murder mystery was fun and creative and kept me guessing. When a man turns up dead in Vera Wong’s tea shop, she decides she can be much more effective at solving the murderer than the police, primarily when they don’t act as she expected based on the television shows she watches. I love how she went about trying to solve the murder and how many twists and turns it took. The final reveal wasn’t a shocker because I caught some actual clues along the way, but I was completely fine with that. The fun is witnessing Vera figure it out rather than yourself.

I loved the cultural diversity in this story too. Vera Wong is Chinese, has raised a son in the US, and runs a tea shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown. She often laments how GenZers of Chinese background neglect to honor the cultural aspects of their heritage. I already knew most of the cultural nuances, but seeing it in action and the plight of parents to get their children to uphold the traditions is eye-opening. This struggle goes on in households across America with the many different cultures that now call this country home. The story gave me a few things to think about.

Characters:

Vera Wong Zhu Zhu is not the only character in the story, but she is the central character and the one that makes her presence most known. She loves tea and

mixing different blends that will relax you, make you more alert, or address your other needs. She is very knowledgeable about tea and what makes the perfect brew for anyone in her shop. She is also sly in a funny head-shaking way as she “innocently” impedes the police’s investigation because she can do it better than them. Her character development is superb, and how her inner pain, which she often masks with her unsolicited advice and humor, is revealed broke my heart for her. You can’t help but love Vera Wong and all of her complexities.

Narration & Pacing:

The narration is 3rd person limited, is tightly focused on Vera, and keeps a fast pace from start to finish. The investigation took a bit too long, which lost my attention for a small portion. Still, otherwise, the pages flipped quickly as I devoured the story.

Setting:

The setting is San Francisco’s Chinatown, mainly in Vera Wang’s Famous Tea Shop. She chose to call it Vera Wang’s instead of Vera Wong’s because of the instant recognition Vera Wang’s fame would bring. 

The setting is perfect for all the story sets out to accomplish – the mystery and the cultural components.

Read if you like:

  • Complex mysteries solved by amateur sleuths.
  • Humor and Poignancy
  • Cultural diversity in books

Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Originality10
Writing Quality10
Pace10
Character Development10
‘Couldn’t Put It Down’-ness8
Use of Setting10
All scores, except the overall rating, are on a scale of 1-10. The overall rating is converted to the standard 5-point system.

21 Replies to “Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto #BookReview #Mystery #5starReview”

  1. This sounds really great for fans of cozies! Every now and then, I love to grab one for an entertaining diversion. This would certainly do the trick. I also love the idea of the Chinatown setting!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great review Tessa!! I’m currently waiting for my hold from the library. It say’s I’m 7th in the queue, but there are 3 libraries close by, so hopefully, I won’t be waiting too long!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent review, Tessa. I knew this was a cozy mystery type story, but didn’t realize there was so much cultural and social issues covered as well. I am on the list at the library for this one and look forward to reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

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