Book review: The Raffles Affair by Vicki Virtue

Thursday, September 23, 2021 Permalink

Who knew that Raffles Hotel in Singapore offered a residency program? Well, it does and New Zealand-born Vicki Virtue spent her Writer-in-Residence stint there on The Raffles Affair, featuring ex-MI6 agent Victoria West, now working independently for governments-in-need. Here however, Victoria is attending her close friend’s wedding in Singapore and called upon to do some old school sleuthing.

I’ve only been to Raffles Hotel once in 1997. I was volunteering in Cambodia for a year (which ended up being 7 months cos of a coup d’etat) and travelled to Singapore for a long weekend. It was a bit of a financial stretch (cos of the whole volunteering thing) but we did go to Raffles and had a beer and some peanuts. So, though I didn’t see much of the hotel, this did bring back some memories.

Book review: The Raffles Affair by Vicki VirtueThe Raffles Affair
by Vicki Virtue
Published by Penguin Books
on 14/09/2021
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction
ISBN: 9814954403
Pages: 291

Fresh from a gruelling three-month assignment in East Africa, beautiful former MI6 agent Victoria West arrives at Raffles Hotel in Singapore to attend her friend’s wedding. But Victoria’s plans for a relaxing break end abruptly with news the groom has been kidnapped. Warned not to contact the police, Victoria sets out to find him. But in this glamorous setting nothing is quite what it seems.

As the deadline to pay the ransom draws near, events take a deadly turn. Victoria suspects murder. But which of the wedding guests did it? They all have a motive… and a talent for lying. With time fast running out, Victoria must untangle the web of domestic squabbles, red herrings and false alibis before it is too late.

In an introduction Virtue comments on wanting to bring back the Golden Age detective and this novel is certainly being compared many of Agatha Christie’s luxuriously set whodunnits. It unfolds in the present however so there’s a lot more technology… though not excessively so.

From the moment I started reading I was hooked. I enjoyed Virtue’s writing which felt comfortable and familiar, and I was enchanted by Victoria (who reminded me of a modern day Phryne Fisher). We’re introduced to a lot of characters however and my notes are full of names and lines linking relationships. It takes a while to remember who’s who and normally I’d suggest there are too many secondary characters introduced… until you remember it’s akin to an Agatha Christie-style whodunnit involving a lot of suspects and a big reveal in front of all of the players at the end.

The real charm in this novel however is the place in which the book’s set and the way in which Virtue is able to describe the lush surrounds and decadent lifestyles of the characters. It’s not just the setting of Raffles and all it has to offer, but there’s a delicious attention to detail, from the watches characters wear, to the designers of their clothes. Not to mention the brand of phones they use. I’m assuming of course her residency at Raffles helped swathe Virtue in the place, but the detail is obviously a strength of hers and it reminded me of Katherine Kovacic’s work in that respect.

There’s a sense of predictability here and I think readers will clearly see where this book’s going, but Virtue also throws in some surprises. I felt the plot probably wasn’t as robust as I would have liked and was shocked (for example) that – though the family was told not to involve the police, they told all of the wedding guests about the kidnapping and everyone became involved to some extent.

I gather this is intended to be the first in a series and I’d certainly read more. The blurb about Virtue suggests she’s an avid traveller so I think she’d definitely do justice to mysteries set in other countries or settings. Hopefully they might also include a little more backstory about our lead character as we don’t get a lot here, other than learning how and where Victoria met the bride, that she was previously in MI6 and able to call on the Prime Minister of Singapore for help when she needed it.

The Raffles Affair by Vicki Virtue was published in Australia by Penguin Books and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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