Shadow Play is the first in the series of Kain Songket Mysteries set in the northern state of Kelantan, Malaysia during the 1970s. Mak Cik Maryam, a smart and take-charge kain songket (silk) trader in Kota Bharu Central Market, discovers a murder in her own backyard, shattering the bucolic village world she thought surrounded her.
While the new Chief of Police, a pleasant young man from Ipoh whose mother’s admonitions about the wiles of Kelantanese girls still ring in his ears, wrestles with the bewildering local dialect, Maryam steps up to solve the mystery herself. Her investigation brings her into the closed world of the wayang kulit Shadow Play theater and the lives of its performers—a world riven by rivalries and black magic.
Trapped in a tangle of jealousy, Maryam struggles to make sense of the crime in spite of the spells sent to keep her from secrets long buried and lies woven to shield the guilty.
Shadow Play won Best Debut Novel at the 2012 SBPA Book Awards in Singapore and was shortlisted for the Popular–The Star Readers’ Choice Awards 2013 in Malaysia. Vol.2, Princess Play, was shortlisted for the Popular–The Star Readers’ Choice Awards 2014 in Malaysia.
About the author
Barbara Ismail spent several years in Kelantan in the 1970s and ’80s, living in Kampong Dusun and Pengkalan Cepa, studying Wayang Siam and the Kelantanese dialect. She holds a PhD in Anthropology from Yale University, and is originally from Brooklyn, New York. For more information about the author and her books, visit www.barbaraismail.com.