Book review: Maids solve murder mystery in Balli Kaur Jaswal’s Now You See Us

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Now You See Us

By Balli Kaur Jaswal

Fiction/HarperCollins/Paperback/325 pages/$30.24/Books Kinokuniya

4 stars

When a Filipina domestic worker is arrested for her employer’s murder, all Singapore seems to think she is guilty – except for a trio of unlikely sleuths, who set out to find the real culprit and exonerate their countrywoman.

Singaporean author Balli Kaur Jaswal made it big with her juicy London-set novel Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows (2017).

She has now remixed those ingredients – a tight-knit community of disenfranchised women, a repressive society, a dangerous mystery – closer to home, with even finer results.

Now You See Us, her fifth novel, is a smart, funny read that astutely blends social satire with intricately plotted mystery.

But it is, above all, character-driven, with heroines so vibrant they almost spring off the page.

The oldest, Cora, has returned to domestic work in Singapore after years back home in the Philippines. At the Merry Maids agency, she meets newly arrived Donita, who is already at odds with her difficult employer.

Cora and her old comrade Angel befriend the younger Donita, a social media-savvy rebel who chafes against the restrictions of migrant life in Singapore.

When Donita’s friend Flordeliza is accused of bludgeoning her employer to death – even though Donita saw her elsewhere when the crime took place – the three women start their own investigation, leveraging their near-invisible presences in the homes of Singapore’s elite.

Each of the women has problems of her own. Angel, a lesbian recovering from a bad break-up, has to fend off sexual harassment from her employer’s son.

Donita tries to juggle her dating life with the increasingly tyrannical deman...

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