Weretigers. Ghosts. Missing fingers. Yangsze Choo artfully weaves Asian folklore and the supernatural throughout her haunting new book, The Night Tiger.
Part of the story is told through the eyes of an 11-year-old orphan, Ren. He dearly misses his dead twin, Yi, who often appears to him in dreams. Ren works as a houseboy for Dr. MacFarlane, an elderly British doctor in 1930s colonial Malaya (Malaysia). When MacFarlane becomes gravely ill, he makes Ren promise that he will find the doctor’s missing finger, which had been amputated a few years ago. MacFarlane insists that Ren has 49 days after the doctor dies to find the finger and return it to his grave. If Ren does not complete the macabre task, MacFarlane’s soul will not rest in peace. After MacFarlane dies, Ren is sent on to another doctor, William Acton, who can give the boy a new home. Ren also suspects Dr. Acton might know where to find the missing finger.
The other part of the story is told through the eyes of a brilliant young woman, Ji Lin. Her stepfather won’t allow her to attend school and forces her to apprentice for a dressmaker. Ji Lin takes on a second job at a dance hall when she finds out her mother is in debt from playing mahjong. While she is working as a dancer, she finds a vial holding a preserved finger. Believing the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin asks for help from her stepbrother, Shin, a medical student working at the local hospital. While tracking down the mystery of the finger, they begin to notice that several people connected to the hospital have died suspicious deaths.
Ren, Yi, Ji Lin, Shin and Dr. Acton all become brilliantly entwined throughout the suspenseful story. I enjoyed The Night Tiger’s exotic setting filled with mysticism and superstitions. Its complex plot and interesting characters make it a compelling read right to the end.
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