Singapore Sapphire by A.M. Stuart - REVIEW

Updated: Aug 22, 2021


Singapore Sapphire (A Harriet Gordon Mystery #1) by A.M. Stuart

Publication Date: August 6th, 2019

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Historical Mystery

 

Synopsis:

Singapore 1910--Desperate for a fresh start and to distance herself from her tragic past, Harriet Gordon finds herself in Singapore at the height of colonial rule. Hoping to gain some financial independence, she advertises her services as a personal secretary. It is unfortunate that she should discover her first client, Sir Oswald Newbold--explorer, mine magnate and president of the exclusive Explorers and Geographers' Club--dead with a knife in his throat.


When Inspector Robert Curran is put on the case, he realizes that he has an unusual witness in Harriet. Harriet's keen eye for detail and strong sense of duty interests him, as does her distrust of the police and her traumatic past, which she is at pains to keep secret from the gossips of Singapore society.


When a second body is dragged from the canal, Harriet feels compelled to help with the case. She and Curran are soon drawn into a complex web of stolen gemstones and a mysterious gang of thieves who have no qualms about killing again to protect their secrets.

 

Thoughts:

I’m not typically a fan of contemporary mystery novels but as soon as you add a historical element, I am on board! Add in that this is set in Singapore which is not a setting I recall having read about previously, I was too intrigued to say no when this book showed up on a list of historical mystery recommendations.


First thing I will say is that if you are reading this for a romance between our female and male leads, you’re not going to get it here. There is some interest but they each have their own lives and pasts in terms of romance and I can’t foresee anything happening between them romantically. Later novels may bring this in to play but, for now, it does not seem like a romance between Harriet and Curran is on the table and I’m totally okay with it. I mention this because one of my favourite historical mystery tropes is when the two leads are also harboring feelings for each other to become a swoon-worthy adventure.


This is not the case for Singapore Sapphire but I enjoyed it immensely despite it not having my favourite genre trope.


The focus of this story really is the mystery as well as the setting and some really thoughtful character choices. Within the descriptions of Singapore, I could really tell that Stuart spent time there. She has an amazing way of setting the scene and making you feel like you are there in the oppressive heat or looking at a body that has begun to decay quicker because of the environment. She does a brilliant job of bringing the reader into the scene.


Another aspect that clearly shows that Stuart knows Singapore so intimately is her references to locations and terms that are used. There are times that I felt the use of them redundant but it overall aided in bringing the story to life and she did provide a glossary as well as a character list to help readers keep everything straight. As the whodunnit begins to unfold and accusations are flying, that character list was a great reference to have.


Our main characters themselves were also extremely well thought-out. I appreciated that they were each given their own lives prior to the events of the start of this book that really helps you feel like they’ve lived well before page 1. Each of their decisions and biases and reactions are based on their individual histories and that aids in bringing these characters to life immensely. I loved Harriet’s character and you can tell that there is so much more to her story that will unfold in future books but you get more than enough of it in this book to connect you to her right from the start. Curran took a little bit longer to grow on me but I think it was more about me having to adjust my expectations on what purpose he is meant to have in the story.


The overall mystery was also very well done and certainly had me guessing. It didn’t seem too absurd or out of left field even with the topic at hand and I think that boils down to the characters being so grounded. There is so much more that I want to learn about Harriet and Curran and their adventures in Singapore. I have also read the second book which I enjoyed just as much so I eagerly await the release of book 3.

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