“The Night Tiger” by Yangsze Choo was part thriller, part historical fiction about mysterious deaths of young women piling up without a clear cause of death. Local superstitions about a “night tiger,” a man who transforms into a tiger at night to kill and back into a man the next day fuel unease among the people.
The story is set in British Malay in the 1930s. It is a place where people looking to escape dubious pasts and start over ago flee to. Ms. Choo weaves a story connecting five young people, each named after one of the Confucian virtues: Ren (benevolence), Yi (integrity), Zhi (knowledge), Xin (order), and Li (righteousness).
Ren and Yi are twins, but Yi has died but not yet left. Yi inhabits the dreams of Ren beside a river communicating with him in what’s described as a “cat sense.” Zhi and Xin are step-siblings born on the same day and united when their widowed parents remarry. Li is shrouded and mystery and her identity is hidden for most of the book leading to the harrowing adventures of the other four.
The book is engaging and draws you into the world Choo has created. A world of both horror and romance. I enjoyed learning more about this place and understanding more about both Malaysian and Chinese culture. Overall, I thought the book was good, but not great. It was worth the read and I am glad I finished it, but parts seemed unnecessary and some of the connections and events were more tenuous.