!! potential spoilers ahead. read at your own risk !!
What You Don’t Know: Tales of Obsession, Mystery & Murder in Southeast Asia
by Elka Ray
Genre: Short Stories, Suspense
An American lawyer dreams of killing his trophy wife in Thailand. A Vietnamese soldier goes mad in a haunted forest. A bereaved mother’s trip to Cambodia ends in tragedy – or does it?
Take a spine-tingling journey from the jungles of Sumatra through Bangkok’s seedy bars to the seemingly sedate streets of Singapore. Your travelling companions are a slew of dark emotions – fear, grief, jealousy, greed, lust and revenge. And your destination? What you don’t know can hurt you.
With flashes of black humour and hard-to-forget characters, these ten stories shine light into the dark corners of Southeast Asia.
What You Don’t Know is a collection of ten stories that focuses on themes such as revenge, lust, loss, etc. All these stories take place in Southeast Asia, setting the book against a unique cultural and scenic backdrop. Many of them have a very inconclusive ending that leaves much for the readers’ interpretation. I usually don’t mind this (because it gives me lots to think about), but I usually don’t read a series of short stories that all end vaguely back-to-back.
It’s rather obvious from the title that this short story’s main focus is on revenge. What I didn’t expect was the slight paranormal aspect towards the end of the story. Martin (the narrator) was a rather interesting character―how his seeming lack of empathy towards Candice contrasts with the guilt he feels at the end of the story.
The Yellow River
This one revolves around a folktale that speaks of adultery and revenge and has an ending that makes me question the exact events that happened in the jungle by the Yellow River.
I didn’t care much about the story as I did for the narrator, Hong. Despite working as a maid for a family of foreigners, she’s actually really smart. She seems well-versed in the art of deception and getting rid of evidence. She also mentioned that she has seen “enough corpses to know that [her] ex-husband is dead”, which makes her past extremely questionable.
I especially loved the build-up in this one. At first, it looked like Felicity (the narrator) and Gary were in Cambodia for just a holiday, but then we learn that there’s some tension between them, one that Gary seems to be oblivious to.
This is the shortest story in this book, and maybe that’s why it made the least impression. Don’t have much to say except for that it has a really vague ending.
Hit and Run
My first thought for this story was “unless I’ve been living a lie for the past eighteen years, I’m pretty sure you can’t see any ocean from any point in Singapore”. Other than that, the most impressionable thing was the fact that this was set in Sentosa Cove (it’s basically where rich people live). It’s rather chilling to see the lengths to which the parents would go to to protect their son’s future, even at the expense of hurting others.
The Secret Admirer
Moral of this story: Don’t visit fortune tellers. They may be right, but they put thoughts in your head. I didn’t really enjoy this story because my mind was filled with thoughts about why Duc only made a move on Moira (the narrator) after she visited the fortune teller. Like was this a coincidence or did she notice only because the fortune teller said so?
Killing Me Softly
I was extremely annoyed by how naive the narrator in this story was. Just because a bunch of girls act nice to you doesn’t mean that they can’t rob you of your cash and valuables after drugging you. Okay but that plot twist at the end though. I kinda suspected it but to actually have it confirmed (‘:
What You Don’t Know
This is a heartbreaking read that focuses on loss and a mother’s grief, though I don’t quite understand the ending.
Nguyet (the narrator) finally got a chance to meet with Professor Son, the Editor-in-Chief and a living legend. However, it seems that he has a certain… fetish. Nguyet tries to prevent herself from falling victim to his habits once more but then he changed the rules, introducing a work uniform. This one almost seemed like it could have a happy ending but then we get an inconclusive one instead.
At the age of eleven, Elka Ray co-founded the Double Trouble Detective Agency. She’s been on the lookout for mysteries ever since. Elka’s latest book, “What You Don’t Know: Tales of Obsession, Mystery & Murder in Southeast Asia”, takes readers on a darkly suspenseful tour of the Far East. Her first novel, a fast-paced romantic adventure titled “Hanoi Jane”, was published by Marshall Cavendish in English and DT Books in Vietnamese. Elka’s next novel, the thriller “Saigon Dark”, will come out with Crimewave Press in November 2016. Elka is also the author and illustrator of a popular series of bilingual kids’ picture books about Vietnam.
Elka divides her time between Hoi An in Central Vietnam and Canada’s scenic Vancouver Island. When she’s not writing, drawing or reading she’s in – or near -the ocean.
Contact: Email Elka at elka.k.ray (at) gmail.com
Agent: Elka is represented by Amy Tipton at Signature Literary Agency
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