Singapore Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Singapore

Virgil Tibbs, now a prestigious homicide detective in Pasadena, California, is called to Singapore where he solves two murders and connects with the love of his life. In Singapore [ISBN 0-396-08763-9], Virgil Tibbs [of In the Heat of the Night fame] is a prestigious homicide detective in the Pasadena Police Department. Over his police radio he hears that a robbery is in progress and there is a policeman down. He rushes to the scene where, in attempting to help, he is shot.
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The day he is released from the hospital, and is relaxing at home, he receives a telephone call on his private number, which very few people have. A voice he does not recognize says, “…my name is Jim Reynolds. I'd like to see you for a few minutes…I'm with the government.” When Virgil agrees, two men come to his apartment armed with impeccable IDs; he listens to them with great respect.   

They tell Virgil that Madam Miriam Motamboru, widow of the slain President of Bakara [a country in Africa], is being held in the women' prison charged with murder. She asks that her good friend, Virgil Tibbs, come to Singapore to help with the investigation.

Miriam is a graduate of the Sorbonne, speaks several languages, and is a stunning beauty, elegant, rich, and a goumet chef. Miriam and Virgil became friends when he is asked to pose as her husband in Pasadena. She had to hide in Pasadena because of the dangerous political situation in Bakara.

For some time Virgil lived with Miriam and her children, although on a strictly professional and platonic basis. The children became very fond of Virgil, and Virgil fell in love with Miriam. Because she was married at the time, and because of their vastly different social classes [Virgil was a working cop], Virgil felt there was no hope for any relationship with her.

Some time later, the President of Bakara, “…one of the most respected leaders in Africa and the true hope of his people…” , who established a successful democracy, is killed, along with 281 other people, when a naïve, 17-year old suicide bomber drives a truck loaded with explosives into the capitol building.

The operation is directed by the Soviet government and has two purposes: to kill President Bakara and to destroy his wife – not literally by killing her [she is much too popular] but by destroying her credibility and, perhaps, having her hung for murder.

Before his death Miriam's husband had entrusted her with documents that she was to channel into the hands of the American President. By a series of clever ruses, she is tricked into going to Singapore. When she arrives at the Crossroads Hotel she gives the package of documents to the Manager of the hotel; the package is placed in the hotel's safe.

When Virgil arrives in Singapore he is accorded every consideration and luxury. He is given the suite Miriam occupied in the Crossroads Hotel [where the murder took place], so he could investigate it thoroughly.

It seems as if Miriam's situation is hopeless. The police do not believe her story. She says that, when she arrived at the Crossroads Hotel, she was expecting a visitor -- an American representative. The man, about 45 or 50 years old, with medium-blond hair and very fit, is escorted to her suite by a member of the hotel's security staff. He claims his name is John Smith. Miriam gives him a glass of water [he has a cough]; as she is taking the empty glass she feels his arm across her throat. She loses consciousness and falls to the floor. When she wakes up there are several people in the room, a dead man on the floor about 15 feet from where she had been lying, and her gun next to the dead man. However, the man is not John Smith; it is someone she has never seen.

At the same time that Virgil is working on Miriam's case, there is another murder in Singapore. The youngest child of the Tan family [there are four children altogether], is murdered. Her throat is cut in their apartment in the Toa Payoh Housing Estate, in the middle of the night. Nobody in the apartment hears anything and nobody in or near the estate remembers a stranger going in or out. There are no clues and no obvious motives for the crime. Mr. Tan, a good family man and a respected block leader, who is an engineer with the Leong Shipyards, has no skeletons in his closet. Nor does his wife.   A few days later, another Tan child, the eldest boy, disappears; he is found drowned. The police receive a phone call saying that the Tan family had four children, but now they have two. A subsequent phone call states that one more child will die. The police, who investigate everything, including Mr. Tan's job in the shipyard, first feel that the murders are revenge for Mr. Tan not joining in a smuggling operation involving the building of hidden compartments in the ships.

The villain of Miriam's murder case is, of course, John Smith, who is a Soviet agent. Virgil coaxes him out into the open by using himself as bait. Virgil is able to “get the drop” on him because John Smith is expecting Virgil to use karate; instead, Virgil uses aikido. Smith is incapacitated and arrested.

After Virgil solves Miriam's murder case, the police ask him to stay in Singapore for a few more days to help with the Tan case. After extensive research, Virgil discovers that Mrs. Tan lived in northern China and is a member of the Wee family. Mr. Tan's boss at the shipyard, Mr. Quek, also comes from northern China. He left because his wife would not even have the one child allowed by Chinese law; nor would she come with him to Singapore. Quek's beloved sister, after having one child - a girl - was six months pregnant with a boy. A fanatical member of the Wee family insisted that she have an abortion; she died along with her unborn son. Mr. Quek feels it is unjust that the Tan family has four children while he has none and, in addition, that Mrs. Tan [nee Wee] has four children when members of her family killed his sister and her unborn child. He feels that three of the Tan children should be killed to even up the score. He makes an attempt on another child, a girl, but a female member of the police department, who is protecting them, gets to the child in time, and she is saved.

After Virgil solves both murders he is ready to go back to Pasadena. Miriam says that she wants to join him. She no longer wants to be on the international political scene but would, rather, share her life with the working cop she loves.
Best part of story, including ending: I liked the intricacy of the two murder plots, the professionalism of all the police officials, the descriptions of local customs and police procedures in Singapore.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene comes at the end when Miriam tells Virgil that she wants to make her life with him and he is, understandably, astounded, but very happy.

Opinion about the main character: I like the fact that Virgil is wonderfully prepared to do his job both intellectually and physically. He reads background material that other investigators do not think of and has the training in various martial arts that allow him to "take down" John Smith.

The review of this Book prepared by Maria Perper a Level 4 Yellow-Headed Blackbird scholar

Chapter Analysis of Singapore

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Plot & Themes

Composition of Book descript. of violence and chases 10%Planning/preparing, gather info, debate puzzles/motives 40%Feelings, relationships, character bio/development 40%How society works & physical descript. (people, objects, places) 10% Tone of story    -   very upbeat How difficult to spot villain?    -   Moderately Challenging Time/era of story:    -   2000+ (Present) What % of story relates directly to the mystery, not the subplot?    -   60% Misc. Murder Plotlets    -   Proving innocence of very obvious suspect Kind of investigator    -   police procedural, American Kid or adult book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Crime Thriller    -   Yes Murder Mystery (killer unknown)    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   police/lawman Age:    -   40's-50's Ethnicity/Race    -   Black


Asia/Pacific    -   Yes City?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

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