For those reading the Inspector Singh Investigates series in order, THE SINGAPORE SCHOOL OF VILLAINY is the third book. Given these are a series, is it necessary to read them in order? Whilst there's always something gained when reading books in the order that the author wrote them, this is a case where I'm not sure you need to be too obsessive about it. Of course, from the start you'll get to know the good Inspector a little more, but to be honest, there's not a lot of expansion of character going on here. It's obvious that Singh's constantly in trouble with his superiors, that he's a lone operator (think less lone wolf and more determined fox), that his wife doesn't understand him, that his methods are slightly unorthodox and that he's a "bit of a character".
What may help a little is to realise that Singh moves around quite a bit (the first book is set in Malaysia, the second in Bali) but in this book he's at home in Singapore. Which nobody, not his bosses, not his wife, not even Singh are particularly best pleased about. What may also help is to realise that despite Singh sounding suspiciously like an Asian Poirot wannabe, and the covers of the book seeming to signal something slightly on the cosier side of crime fiction, well... (sorry can't avoid the pun) you should never judge a book by its cover (or an Inspector by his description). You can, however rely on the suggestion that there's a sly sense of humour behind these books... something that is even more apparent if you're ever lucky enough to come across the author herself, who took to writing after a career in the law, but really could have been just as successful as a stand up comedian.
The Inspector Singh series tackles difficult themes, in different places, but with a tone and style that veers away from too much confrontation. Definitely not cosy, but equally not overly dark, Flint takes the reader into some tricky territory on occasions, using her Inspector Singh character as a foil for the worst excesses of humanity. A detective from the "ask a few awkward questions, appear at the worst time in the suspect's life" school of detecting, Singh's physique isn't going to allow him to do a lot of rushing around, and his personality doesn't fit that bill either. In THE SINGAPORE SCHOOL OF VILLAINY he's even more grumpy and more difficult, seemingly going out of his way to agitate everyone around him, whilst blithely believing that they are, in turn, out to annoy him every step of the way.
Part of the trick in enjoying these books is really all about setting your expectations correctly. If you are a huge fan of the very cosy; of mannered, polite and very English detecting, then Inspector Singh is probably not going to be totally to your taste. I also don't always come away from the books with an overwhelmingly strong sense of the individual places. But I do find myself warming to Inspector Singh. If you're a fan of slightly more edgy than just entertaining books, centred around a central character who's a little bit grumpy, a little bit rumpled, a little bit hot and bothered, more than a bit tricky, and more than occasionally a big bit slyly funny, then this could be the series for you.