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Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice For Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice For Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Published by Berkley ISBN 9780593549223
Trade paperback, $17, 352 pages

I was in the mood for something lighter, and the cover of Jesse Q. Sutanto's newest mystery Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice For Murderers beckoned me to pick it up. Am I ever glad I did!

Vera Wong is a 60 year-old widow who begins each day at 4:30am precisely and texts her laywer son "reminding him that he's sleeping his life away and should have been up before her" as he has a "whole world to conquer." Then she dons her sweatpants, Ralph Lauren polo shirt, and visor and heads out for her daily walk around her San Francisco Chinatown neighborhood.

When she returns home, she opens her business "Vera Wang's World Famous Teahouse", which is neither owned by the famous fashion designer Vera Wang nor world famous. Sematics. She waits for her only customer of the day, her neighbor Alex, who comes in to get tea and bring it back to wife who is suffering from Alzheimer's.

Everyday is the same until one morning when Vera comes down from her upstairs apartment to find the dead body of a man in her teahouse. Vera calls the police and is excited because she watches all the CSIs and she knows all the activity that will follow. She begins to brew special teas for the police, teas that will help with concentration and solve the crime.

When only two police officers arrive, they find that Vera drew an outline of the body with a Sharpie marker on the floor. She says she did not touch anything else (do we believe that?) and when the police find little evidence of a murder, Vera is disappointed in the police's lack of investigation.

So of course, Vera begins her own investigation. Other people trickle in- a man who claims to be a reporter, a woman who claims to host a true crime podcast, the man's widow with her young daughter, and the man's brother. These five people band together to try and find the killer, even though Vera has declared that one of the other four are her main suspects.

Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice For Murderers is a laugh out loud cozy mystery, and Vera is a truly unforgettable character. The things she says, the texts she sends her son, and yet she has a heart of gold beneath her lack of a filter. If you are a fan of the Hulu series Only Murders In The Building, you'll love this book. It has the same sensibility.

My only criticism is that Vera is described several times as "elderly". I am also 60 years old and many of my friends are "of a certain age" and I do not consider myself or them "elderly". It's supposed to be remarkable that Vera is so spry, but we all get around just fine. I hope when they do the TV series of this book they make Vera a little older than 60. I look forward to more of Vera's future escapades.

Thanks to Berkley for providing me with an advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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