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

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Murder Has Never Been This Much Fun: Meet Vera Wong

Thanks to its fearless amorality, deliriously off-kilter sense of humor, and delightfully deviant heroine, it's sure to be a book that sticks with you long after the shocking final act. For mystery fans seeking thrills, laughs, and insights in equal measure, Jesse Q. Sutanto's debut is unsolicited but essential advice you'd be wise to follow.
  • Publisher: Berkley
  • Genre: Mystery Thriller
  • First Publication: 2023
  • Language: English

If you’re in need of a read that will have you giggling through every twist and turn, look no further than Jesse Q. Sutanto’s debut novel “Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers.” This utterly delightful cozy mystery breathes fresh life into the genre with its unique protagonist – a salty-tongued Chinese grandmother who fancies herself an amateur sleuth. Teetering between horrifying and hysterical, the book is a masterclass in tonal balance as it veers from shockingly macabre moments to touching lessons about human connection in Sutanto’s deft hands.

The Curious Case of the Cadaver in the Tea Shop

Our narrator, Vera Wong, is a prickly yet endearing sort. An elderly Chinese-American woman who runs a struggling tea shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown, she spends her days grousing about her reckless millennial son, lurking on internet forums, and stewing over her living situation. So when she shuffles downstairs one morning to find a very dead body splayed across her tea shop’s floor, it’s not exactly a run-of-the-mill Tuesday for our ornery heroine.

But rather than simply call the authorities, Vera snatches up a mysterious flash drive clutched in the stiff’s hand, convinced she can do a better job sniffing out the killer’s identity herself. And just like that, we’re off on a wild and wonderful ride as Vera transforms her sad little tea shop into a low-key detective’s lair, squinting her eyes in suspicion at every new customer that wanders in.

The Killer Could Be Anywhere…Or Anyone

What ensues is a masterclass of comic mystery writing, as Sutanto cycles through a vivid carousel of potential murderers parading into Vera’s shop and onto her radar. With each new arrival, Vera’s suspicions shift, following a delirious logic that’s utterly zany yet weirdly plausible through her crotchety perspective.

Sutanto strikes a perfect balance between letting us share in Vera’s increasingly deranged thought process while winking at us that, of course, this intense little granny is way off-base. Just when you think you have your prime suspect identified, Sutanto deftly pulls the rug out and sends you tumbling down another hilariously zigzagging trail of theories and clues.

A Heartwarming Mystery About Human Connection

But while the central mystery is endlessly entertaining and wildly unpredictable, the true magic of this book lies in how Sutanto utilizes the murder investigation as an exploration of human connection and the power of finding one’s community. What begins as Vera’s mission to solve the crime alone slowly transforms into her forming the very social network she previously dismissed—and finding purpose through her new circle of misfits.

As she suspiciously eyes each new customer, Vera can’t help but become charmed by their quirks, shrugging off her hard outer shell to engage in unexpected ways. Through her wary interactions with the potential suspects, Sutanto lets us see Vera’s defenses gradually melt away as she forms touching bonds with people from all walks of life. There’s a gentle, hopeful message that even the most curmudgeonly loners can find warmth and community if they’re willing to take a chance on human connection.

Of course, that certainly doesn’t stop Vera’s increasingly zany attempts to untangle the sordid story behind the body in her tea shop! Her burgeoning friendships with likely murderers only add chaotic fuel to the mystery’s fire. It’s a delight watching her transition from snapping ruthless criticisms at customers to fiercely protective mother hen mode when their lives become imperilled, convinced she alone can keep them from a killer’s clutches. The tonal whiplash between comedic banter and legitimately perilous twists is masterfully handled by Sutanto.

Laugh-Out-Loud Funny with Heart to Spare

Underpinning the unpredictable mystery plot and heartwarming themes of human connectivity are Sutanto’s pitch-perfect grasp of comic timing and Vera’s delightfully cranky narration. The book is an absolute riot from its opening pages as we’re ushered into the uncensored inner monologue of this cantankerous, Anthropologie-hating granny who makes no bones about putting you in your place.

Yet Sutanto’s humor is born of character rather than cheap laughs or one-note jokes. Vera is a richly-drawn protagonist whose wry asides and blunt callouts flow effortlessly from her authentic persona and background—that of a pragmatic, fuss-budgeting Chinese mother who brooks no nonsense yet possesses a keen wit and biting sense of humor. There’s a naturalistic feel to how Vera seamlessly vacillates between gruff dismissals, self-deprecating zingers, and moments of earned poignancy that never feels forced or inconsistent.

In Sutanto’s skilled hands, Vera is elevated beyond mere comedic punching bag into a fully-fleshed, complicated character we can empathize with and root for even when she’s at her most abrasive and outrageous. She absolutely shines as a heroine for the modern age—a hero who’ll have you cackling out loud with irreverent delight as she turns musty mystery genre tropes on their head with her singular voice and perspective.

A Bonafide Crowd-Pleaser

For all its madcap banter and irreverent skewering of genre conventions, “Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers” ultimately lands as a rousing crowd-pleaser for its warmth and knack for tapping into universal human experiences. Who among us can’t relate to that curmudgeonly voice in the back of our minds snarkily judging the world, even as we crave meaningful human bonds? Who hasn’t felt like an out-of-touch relic at times, only to be embraced by an unlikely community that cracks our cynical shells?

Sutanto taps into those shared anxieties and desires through the wildly entertaining conduit of Vera and her mysterious investigation. As over-the-top and deliriously fun as the book gets, it always returns to an emotional core of found family, unlikely connections, and the power we all have to reinvent ourselves across any age. For all its laugh-out-loud moments, it’s just as capable of earning misty eyes with deeply empathetic character beats and pithy life wisdom.

In short, “Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers” is that rare breed – an uproarious comedic romp that also packs a subtle yet powerful emotional punch. It’s a master class in tonal balance, mixing shockingly macabre moments with sincere tenderness and irreverent-yet-grounded character work. Most importantly, it marks the arrival of a spectacular new voice in Jesse Q. Sutanto, who’s created an unforgettable heroine in Vera that readers will clamor to join on many more deliriously zany adventures.

For cozy mystery fans in need of a witty palate cleanser, there’s no better choice. For readers who typically shy away from the genre, Sutanto’s endlessly inventive plotting and uproarious humor make “Vera Wong” an absolute must. However you come to this delightful novel, you’ll likely finish it with a big smile, a new appreciation for the oldster in your life’s salty wisdom, and promptly pre-ordering whatever Sutanto has coming next. Endlessly charming and compulsively re-readable, it’s a cozy mystery for the ages.

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  • Publisher: Berkley
  • Genre: Mystery Thriller
  • First Publication: 2023
  • Language: English

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Thanks to its fearless amorality, deliriously off-kilter sense of humor, and delightfully deviant heroine, it's sure to be a book that sticks with you long after the shocking final act. For mystery fans seeking thrills, laughs, and insights in equal measure, Jesse Q. Sutanto's debut is unsolicited but essential advice you'd be wise to follow.Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto