Waking the Tiger, Mark Wightman

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

WAKING THE TIGER is set in 1939 Singapore. Dripping with sense of place and time, there's something vaguely reminiscent of Chandler's styling, and the excellent Inspector Le Fanu series by Brian Stoddart in the characterisation and plot.

Inspector Maximo Betancourt is working a new beat, that he never wanted. Following the disappearance of his own wife, everything has collapsed around him, including his career. Once a rising star of the Singapore CID, he's been relegated to the Marine Division, adjudicating dockyard disputes and conducting goods inspections.

The discovery of an unidentified Japanese woman, murdered in the shadow of a warehouse owned by one of Singapore's most powerful families, Betancourt investigates, defying orders and social norms, bringing him into conflict with some of the most powerful people in Singapore. In the end, the fate of his wife, and his future with his much-loved young daughter fight the dead woman for attention.

An excellent plot and strong mystery elements are enhanced by the social history lesson that comes with WAKING THE TIGER. Subtly presented, as part of the overall story, this novel touches on the cultural tensions within Singapore and the politics of the time, particularly the attitudes of the ruling classes (including the British) and the way that the tensions sit across the entire region. It all went to a really strong sense of place and time, avoiding at all times that sense of sitting through a lecture.

Part of the success of WAKING THE TIGER was that sense of balance - informative and rich in detail, without being laggy or dragged down by it. Populated by excellent, flawed characters with plenty of their own problems to be getting on with that remain engaging and lively company. Set in a place and time that's beautifully evoked, never once resorting towards tell, not show, WAKING THE TIGER was a very entertaining and rewarding read.




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Singapore, 1939

A young Japanese woman is found dead on the dockside, her throat slashed

Inspector Maximo Betancourt is working a new beat, one he didn’t ask for. Following the disappearance of his wife, his life and career have fallen apart.

A distinctive tiger tattoo is the only clue to her identity

Once a rising star of Singapore CID, Betancourt has been relegated to the Marine Division, with tedious dockyard disputes and goods inspections among his new duties.

Who is she? And why are the authorities turning a blind eye?

But when a beautiful, unidentified Japanese woman is found murdered in the shadow of a warehouse owned by one of Singapore’s most powerful families, Betancourt defies orders and pursues those responsible. What he discovers will bring him into conflict with powerful enemies, and force him to face his personal demons. 

Review Waking the Tiger, Mark Wightman
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, November 9, 2022

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