The Feng Shui Detective is the first of a series of novels featuring the detective work of feng shui master C F Wong. The author, Nury Vittachi, was originally from Sri Lanka but now lives in Hong Kong.

C.F. Wong, at 56 years, is an established China-born geomancer who has settled in Singapore. Assisting him in what he does are Winnie, his nail-conscious secretary and Jo, an apprentice he is obliged to take under his wing. Wong uncovers more than just negative chi’ energy in his assignments which take him to surrounding Asian regions. As a sideline, he writes snippets of oriental wisdom, which he hopes to compile into a book.

Each chapter of Feng Shui Detective starts with an extract of Wong’s baffling, but intriguing lesson in wisdom, followed by the story of a new case. Reading the last line of his lesson and the following first line of the next case reminds me of my teenage days when I wrestled with complex Maths problems in my bedroom. I would mentally tell myself that the answers would come if I just sat there and reflected hard enough on the underlying concepts and theories. But the temptation from the music signaling the start of Matt Houston on TV in the adjoining hall was always too hard to resist. Matt always conquered Maths. When entertainment is preferred, the desire for enlightenment takes a back seat. Thus, I would move on to read the next story, while musing on Wong’s wisdom at the back of my mind.

Readers get to savour the accents and colloquialism of the various cultures in the dialogues. Wong himself grapples with mastery of the English language and his attempts to understand Jo’s lingo or mimic it are comical. His initial skepticism of how a young, loud “mat salleh” could be of any use to him is understandable. But his perception slowly changes from apprehension to appreciation as they work through each successive case.

Having grown up with Singlish in Singapore, there were times when I went “huh?” on how one or two of the expressions were used and “is it?” on a couple of adjectives describing Singapore. But these are just insignificant ink stains on dark cloth. On the whole, Feng Shui Detective is a book hard to put down before completion.