Book Review | Shadow Play by Barbara Ismail

This piece is one of a kind and I did enjoy the journey, that is why personally this book deserves five stars because it rekindles something in me that I did not found in modern investigation novels.

The first things comes to my mind by reading the blurb is, will this makcik get what it takes to step up? Well, thinking back that this event take place on 1970’s, where internet are still alien things to them, the only useful source of information to them is the neighboorhood. If a police from Johor just posted into an unfamiliar place and had troubled to understand the local dialect and someone in the form of a motherly figure offer help in the investigation, how you can say no? Besides don’t play-play with the power of makcik; “ older woman could command younger men with just a stern look..” or younger women even.


Shadow Play’s Blurb

Style of Writings

Maimunah flicked her cigarette over the side of the porch and lit another immediately. One of the goats came by to investigate. 

The style of the writing amuses me in many parts, such as the little detail that seems out of place but seems so true in so many ways such as; Maimunah flicked her cigarette over the side of the porch and lit another immediately. One of the goats came by to investigate. Such a curious goat and this kind of writing left me crack so much. I do imagine this story like what I saw in Malay classic movies, the scarf around head, the makcik was shimmered with gold chains, bangles and earrings, calculating the sheer quantity of precious metal would intimidate their witnesses into speaking the truth. Its kind of funny to imagine how Malaysian woman back then in the 1970’s because it is sound so similar with the nowadays aunties usually wear, guess some things never change :D.

Characters Development and Background Settings

The story evolved by focusing on makcik Maryam investigating process and lifestyle as a Songket retailer. At some point of this book, we will question Maryam biggest motivation to continue helping the police, after so many unfortunate things happen to her. I also found her support system is fascinating in so many ways. We will also encounter many kinds of people, the ones who deserve some slaps and punches right on their noses, or the innocent people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In the end, it will lead us to feel that this kind of person may exist in our real life, and some people are worth fighting for.

Before diving into a book, one must know how fiction books works, although parts of them are based on true things, but most of it are still fiction, the person or tragedy does not actually happen. I am aware the folks in this book believe bomoh to be a part of solution, but not to mentioned bomoh in this story seems to know more than just selling spells, the knowledge they possess are nearly as a herbalogist. This bomoh things may seem an absurd due to Kelantan is some of the most religous part in Malaysia, but some things to remember, THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION and did not entirely resemble the local activities. For me, witchcraft in this book spice up the storytelling, for entertainment purposes of course. Read can, believe we not.

Interesting Plot

This story also interesting plot that I love to savour, with the limit source of information, even amateur need to get into the basic stuff to extract information. That means go forth and north to interview people. I found this resonance with all the actions and questions comes out from the makcik. Politeness will find its way and I do like Maryam and Rubiah background as businesswomen, it shows ‘they know how to do business’ and put their knowledge in action. It kind of empowering women, we know multiple things its just we always stay low about it, do we? 😛

Some Two Cents

I feel its not fair to compare these ladies with detective/investigators from the western world because Malaysian women have their politeness, they are more depending on their memory and intuition, not based on the things they read, more on based on the thing they heard. As far my experience in reading investigation novel, this story have more intimate reading that I never imagine I will had. That part of keep you move on no matter what obstacles and challenges you may face. That motherly figure that Maryam possess and all the illness she happens to get because of doing so but her will to get things done make me learn a thing or two.

I found this book such a fresh introduction to Maryam, she acts based on what other Malaysian women will do, instinct. Guess what my friend said is true, every book we read is based on what our minds are searching for. I do read investigating stories a lot nowadays, I found many different story and method of investigating, with this book never did I disappoint even the method involve kind of orthodox already. The climax of this story was bitterly swallowed, its kind of accident that should not been there, people sometimes get over jealous and do the stupid things on earth.

I do recommend this reading if you search for a strong women protagonist, amateur investigating process, if you are okay with witchcraft (not the kind of reciting spell, no, just some local witchcraft believer) and this book sure make you droll all the way because of the local delicacy, erm nyum. Mak Cik Maryam though appear polite like average makcik, but when it comes to fighting what’s right, she gives her all. I happen to be a slow reader and perhaps the other reason why I indulge this reading so much, there are some things you can see only when you slow down right? Hope this little information will help you to consider this book as your next read.

Thank you Moonson Books and Pansing distributor for recommending and providing this copy of book in exchange for an honest review.

Book are available in all bookstore worldwide.