Mei Mei is a masseuse at Happy Palace, a massage parlour located in Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur. The entire story mainly sets in Chow Kit, which is well-known as one of the major red-light districts in Kuala Lumpur. The story instantly begins with the climax and offers the readers the main plot at the beginning of the story. Mei Mei's introduction and a momentary flashback of her argument with her family create more suspense about her life. Before any further revelation of her background, she ends up in a huge mess when she finds her customer is dead on her massage bed. No additional details are given of what happens after that except we know she runs away through the front door and a man runs out from the back door. The story continues after the first night of her escape but mainly focuses on other characters' lives.
When Mei Mei is fleeing from the massage parlour, she was seen by Adil who works at the nearby office. Simultaneously, a young man clashes with Longkang Loga when he runs away from the back door. Longkang Loga owns a food stall around the area and a close friend with Joy, a trans prostitute. They are unaware of what happened inside the parlour at this stage, but they are suspicious of the unusual incident. Adil easily obtains Mei Mei's phone number from another masseuse without him knowing that it was a set up by Ah Weng. Adil, Joy, Longkang Loga and later join by Shan (Adil's colleague), working together to unfold the mysterious event at Happy Palace a few nights ago.
This story is an enjoyable read from the start due to the story's authenticity and the carefree writing style. It's a light reading book, and shouldn't be a problem in understanding the story if the reader is familiar with Malaysian slangs. The story is heavily themed on Malaysian culture. It reflects the struggles and the challenges of the people who work in a red-light district. I wish this story will make it into a series. Chow Kit offers an exciting background setting with its vibrant mix of characters. I feel there are still many potentials for all these characters that can be developed further, and I'm really eager to know more about them. This story also reminds me of one of my favourite series 'Aunty Lee' written by Ovidia Yu. Although some parts didn't seem to make sense to me, the raw writing style, and the amusing characters with their local slangs are more than enough to create an enjoyable story.
Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)
More reviews can be found on Goodreads: Escape from Happy Palace: A Malaysian Murder Mystery by Jai Patel.