ShadowPlay is the first in a series set in rural Malaysia during the 1970s. At the center of the series is Mak Chik Maryam, one of the middle-aged "aunties" who sell batiks in the local market and offer advice on any subject that might cross their paths. Of course, not everyone is grateful for the advice. The new police chief, for example, seems to imagine that he could solve this terrible murder on his own, without Maryam's help. She soon puts him straight, and sets out sleuthing. But solving the murder will take Maryam into some hidden corners of a community she thought she knew well. It will introduce her to some ugly aspects of the ShadowPlay—the traditional Malyasian theater and the performers who specialize in it. And it will require her to acknowledge that jealousy, rivalries and even black magic run like a dark river through a world she had imagined was simple and sunlit.
"For lovers of armchair tourism and detective stories, Barbara Ismail has created a winner in her series about Makcik Maryam an amateur sleuth who sells songket fabric"—Strait Times
Who's likely to like this: Fans of Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency and Colin Cotterill's The Coroner's Lunch.