September 27, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutantao: Review

  1. Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murderers By Jesse. Q. Sutanto: Summary

A lonely shopkeeper takes it upon herself to solve a murder in the most peculiar way in Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murderers by Jesse Q. Sutanto, bestselling author of Dial A for Aunties.

Vera Wong is a lonely little old lady–ah, a lady of a certain age–who lives above her forgotten tea shop in the middle of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite living alone, Vera is not needy, oh no. Instead, she likes nothing more than sipping on a good cup of Wulong and doing some healthy detective work on the Internet about what her Gen-Z son is up to.

Then one morning, Vera trudges downstairs to find a curious thing–a dead man in the middle of her tea shop. In his outstretched hand, a flash drive. Vera doesn’t know what comes over her, but after calling the cops like any good citizen would, she sort of . . . swipes the flash drive from the body and tucks it safely into the pocket of her apron. Why? Because Vera is sure, she would do a better job than the police possibly could because nobody sniffs out wrongdoing quite like a suspicious Chinese mother with time on her hands. Moreover, Vera knows the killer will be back for the flash drive; all she has to do is watch the increasing number of customers at her shop and figure out which one among them is the killer.

What Vera does not expect is to form friendships with her customers and start to care for every one of them. But, as a protective mother hen, will she have to give one of her newfound chicks to the police?


Jesse Q. Sutanto

Thank You to Penguin Random House Audio for the EARC Audiobook of Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, which releases on March 14.


Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murderers By Jesse Q. Sutanto: Review

First, the title of my review of Jesse Q. Sutanto Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers should have been: You are going to be thrilled while you pee your pants laughing. However, SEO and the length of the actual title made it impossible. So, I leave the thought with you upfront. You are also going to care A LOT. And not just about the plot, the mystery. You will care and root for this fantastic group of characters. So let’s do this, shall we?

Oh! If you noticed, I haven’t mentioned the “there is so much I want to say but can’t because… spoilers!” This is because I’m not concerned about spoiling Sutanto’s madcap adventure. That is because there is so much to talk about other than the end of this story. A story you won’t want to end. One last thing? This review will have more quotes than usual because Jesse Q. Sutanto’s writing is everything.

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murderers By Jesse Q. Sutanto: Characters


I have to start here because of all the mystery and intrigue encompassing the plot; the characters and charm make Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murderers and Jesse Q. Sutanto unique. First, of course, is Vera. This little lady packs one hell of a punch. Vera Wong is a pistol from her strict morning walk routine to her health beliefs. Oh! Yes, Vera Wang’s World Famous Tea House is neither world-famous nor run by Vera Wang. But since Vera Wang is a famous designer and she is world-renowned, why not go with it? It is only one letter from Vera Wong’s name.

But I digress. Vera believes only room-temperature water is good for the body. Cold water, you see, will freeze the fat in your arteries. And, of course, her unsolicited advice to murderers and her son, alike, is a riot.

Perhaps you should slip and slide into her DM. Kind regards, Mama… Vera had been particlarly pleased about using the phrase “slip and slide into her DM.”

Vera insists on keeping up to date with every trend.

Vera is the centerpiece of everything, which is just how she likes it. And as each character comes to the crime scene under pretenses, she believes she will solve this case. And before the police. Vera also knows best about setting up couples and helping Julia with her baby girl. Speaking of Julia…


Julia is the tormented widow of the disease, aspiring photographer, and mamma bear to a precocious two-and-a-half-year-old child, Emma. Julia and the unceremoniously deceased had a contentious relationship, to say the least. The night before his untimely death, Marshall had left Julia. As you learn more about the contentiousness of their relationship, this doesn’t bode well for Julia. Poor Julia, who is packing up Marshall’s things to rid herself of them, when the police show up to inform her that Marshall is dead.

Hot take? Not a good look. However, you will notice a pattern of Vera becoming close to those she most suspects of the murder. And when Julia shows up at the tea house, just to run from the door with Emma on her hip? Vera notices.


Riki shows up, and like Calamity Jane stumbles through, first the shape of Vera Wang’s World Famous Tea House, then Vera herself. And last, why is he at the tea house? Riki knew Marshall, but he couldn’t tell this stranger. And so he becomes Riki, a reporter from Buzzfeed. And Vera is thrilled, which Riki didn’t expect. He didn’t even think she would KNOW what Buzzfeed was or how to access it. Yet, here they are.

You mean the Buzzfeed? Wow! Fabulous, wonderful job, child

As with all the characters, Riki has something to hide, and Vera will get to the bottom of it whether she cares for them or not.


The tortured artist (her relationship with her mother is… something) who knew Marshall. There is a lot to unpack with that relationship. So, I’ll leave you to find out. But like Riki, she has to see where Marshall died but can’t tell Vera. And so Sana, the podcaster, is born. And Vera isn’t fooled by either of them. Their falsities lead Vera to start her notebook: Vera Wong’s Murder Case.

Suspect 1: Riki Herwanto 

-Too handsome to be real reporter

Suspect 2: Sana Singh

-Nails are bitten very badly

Suspect 3: White Lady <Julia> with child

-Runs very fast while carrying child… And why run from my shop? Very suspicious


Marshall’s twin brother is just not that mad about Marshall’s demise. He says he has to see where his brother died. Immediately, proud because SHE drew it (what good are the police?), Vera takes Oliver to the chalk outline of Marshall’s body. But there is more to Riki than a dislike for his twin brother. He is connected to another character in this motley group. But which? How? And what does it mean?

Other Characters

Every principal and peripheral character has their own voice. And their unique relationship with Vera. Detective Gray is flummoxed by Vera showing up everywhere and in everything. Her frustration, mixed with Vera’s determination to solve the case, provides some of the best banter in Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers. Sutanto writes it brilliantly. Vera has schooled herself on the likes of CSI and Law and Order. So, she knows exactly what to expect when she visits the police station. Except. It isn’t like that at all.

No one is threatening her life. No one is shouting. No one is even looking her way. People just typing into computers like this is a regular office instead of a police station.

And when she finds Officer Gray, loads of food prepared for the police in hand, things take a turn. Marching off to Officer Gray’s office, there is confusion.

“Good Morning, Officer.”

“It was,” Officer Gray says meaningfully… <Gray> follows Vera as she turns a corner and keeps marching… “Um, just where is it that you’re headed, Vera?”

“You’re Office, of course”

“Right. Silly me. Except you seem to be leading the way?”

Vera sniffs. “I keep expecting you to catch up and lead, but you young people nowadays, always walking so slow… because you are always staring at your phone, all day everyday…”

Vera’s son Tilly could easily be the villain, if only because of how he treats his mother. Then there is Vera’s favorite customer. Alex’s wife is sick. To get a respite, Alex has a dajly ten-minute, once a day visit to Vera’s teashop. This, Alex’s only respite from caring for his wife.

Lastly, little Emma. Julia’s daughter is a heartbreaker. Readers nor Vera can keep from falling in love with her.

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murderers By Jesse Q. Sutanto: Mystery

Read the summary of Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice For Murders above. It pretty much lays out the basics as each character meets Vera and each other. They all realize the others have secrets to hide. The problem? They all start bonding and caring for each other.

As the story builds, Vera won’t be the only one beginning to hate the idea that one of this newly found family could be a murderer. Each press on to keep their secrets while keeping up with developments. Some start to revisit their pasts and compensate for lost time, lost identities, and painful trauma. Others are just barely staying afloat.

But Vera is determined to get to the bottom of this murder, whether anyone wants her to or not.

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