“The old man opens his watery blue eyes, those colorless foreign eyes that had frightened Ren so much in the beginning, and whispers something. The boy bends his cropped head closer. ‘Remember.’ The boy nods. ‘Say it.’ The hoarse rasp is fading. ‘When you are dead, I will find your missing finger,’ Ren replies in a clear small voice. ‘And?’ He hesitates. ‘And bury it in your grave.”
I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that’s a quote from the first page of Yangtze Choo’s novel The Night Tiger. It’s set in 1931 in Malaya when it was under British rule. Ren is an eleven year old orphan who serves as the house boy for a British family doctor. After the doctor dies, Ren sets off with a letter of introduction to work for a British surgeon, William Acton, and to fulfill his promise to find the amputated finger and bury it with the rest of the body.
Acton is a womanizer who also seems to have a kind of dark luck following him. How else to explain the untimely and grisly deaths of two young women he has pursued and a man who could have been a witness? In alternating chapters Choo also tells the story of seventeen year old Malaysian, Ji Lin, who works as an apprentice seamstress by day and a dance partner by night. She longs to leave her oppressive stepfather and go to medical school. Ji Lin and Ren have the same dream where Ren’s dead twin is across a river or waiting at a train station. And then there’s the weretiger sightings and tracks...
If you love a well told story of mystery and superstition and love, then you must read The Night Tiger by Yangtze Choo.