All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Raffles Affair by Vicki Virtue

on September 16, 2021

The Raffles Affair
Vicki Virtue
Penguin Random House
2021, 291p
Copy courtesy Penguin Random House AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: The classic whodunnit gets a modern makeover.

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.

I actually didn’t really read much about this before I opened it so I was expecting it to be a historical fiction until the main character was using an iPad in the opening line! It very much has a classic feel about it, very “well-to-do people living the high life in the colonies” type of feel.

It’s set in the Raffles Hotel Singapore and I strongly urge anyone who isn’t familiar with it to google it. It’s a very grand building and the home of the “Singapore Sling” which was created there at the Long Bar in 1915. The hotel is also quite famous for the artistic types it has attracted over the years, the likes of Joseph Conrad and William Somerset Maugham. The hotel now also offers a writers in residence program and this book was written during one of those programs.

In this story, Raffles is the setting for a glamorous wedding. Main character Victoria is formerly with MI6 and has flown into Singapore from East Africa to attend the wedding of her best friend Peyton. It’s to be a small affair, only a few family members and very close friends of the bride and groom and it’s been kept under wraps from any press which means when the groom disappears and there’s a kidnap ransom note, Victoria is immediately suspicious.

This book harks back to a very old world sort of glamour – wealthy people (often behaving quite badly) wearing designer clothes, taking in cocktail hour and hosting elaborate dinners in their luxurious suites at one of the world’s most famous hotels. Although this appears to be the first book in a series, it mentions the last time Victoria was in Singapore quite often and the service she provided to the government and it seems she’s long been a regular there, used to excellent service and she knows the staff by name. This also gives her the ability to basically conduct an investigation when the groom is kidnapped and basically it seems like someone who is there for the wedding must be involved and the more Victoria inquires the more she uncovers that pretty much everyone there might have a motive for being involved in this.

Whilst I enjoyed the setting – the author really does capture the hotel, even for someone who has obviously never been there before, like myself – the mystery didn’t feel the strongest. I think the problem was we didn’t know James, the groom and Peyton, the bride, before Victoria arrives at the hotel and meets James, so there was no way to be invested in them, to feel sorry for Peyton when he disappears or to wonder at potential motives. Unfortunately, they seem quite obvious almost immediately and I think it would’ve been better to have a bit more ambiguity. Also most of his family are so unpleasant it’s all too easy to cast them in the role of villains immediately.

I haven’t actually read any Agatha Christie (not sure how that happened) so I can’t say for sure if that is the sort of vibe the book is going for but it’s the one I feel like it might’ve been emulating in a modern-day setting. It’s a quick read, paced relatively well and there’s enough skeletons in the closets of those in attendance for the wedding (except for Victoria, obviously) to give the reader reason to ponder over each one of them being the potential culprit.

If this does turn out to be a series, I’d be curious to see where Victoria goes next. I’d like to know more about her – we only get the bare minimum here and it feels like there’s definitely more that could be elaborated upon as she moves on from MI6 and travels.

6/10

Book #166 of 2021


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