Monday, March 25, 2024

Book Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Aunties

By Jami Denison

**Review may contain spoilers for the first two books in the series**

The third time’s the charm for author Jesse Q. Sutanto and her Aunties series. (read the reviews for Dial A for Aunties and Four Aunties and a Wedding.) In wrapping up her series, Sutanto takes her madcap cast to Jakarta, where Meddy, her husband Nathan, her mother, and her three aunts have returned to celebrate Chinese New Year. But in The Good, the Bad, and the Aunties, like the first two books of the series, nothing goes as planned.  

If Meddy’s family seemed too much in the U.S., back in Indonesia, where Meddy’s mother and sisters are reunited with their cousins from multiple branches of the family, they’re too sprawling to keep track of. And that’s the wrinkle that sets off this book’s adventure: Nathan accidentally gives a red envelope (the traditional Chinese New Year gift for children) to the wrong person, which results in hostage-taking, kidnapping, drugging, and party crashing in order to save family members from warring Indonesian mafia members. In other words, business as usual for the aunties. 

With Meddy and Nathan firmly a team, the third book in the series sidesteps Meddy’s biggest issue in the first two books: She no longer needs to hide anything from the man she loves. Her mother and aunts have claimed Nathan as their own, and he willingly participates in machinations necessary to save their family members. Now that Meddy no longer has to lie to Nathan, her other shortcomings become clear: She simply doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to her mother and aunts, even when her judgment is proven correct time and again. To do this, Meddy will have to overcome Chinese culture that insists that elders must be obeyed no matter what, and that there’s nothing worse than losing face.  

Tone-wise, the third book in the series matches the first book, with bickering relatives exchanging insults and undying loyalty, and the villains about as scary as Count Von Count from Sesame Street. Sutanto’s plotting, structure, pacing, and twists continue to put on a master class for other thriller writers. After three books, though, the style gets a little tiresome, and I think Sutanto was right to pull the plug on the series—or at least take a break from it. She leaves Meddy and Nathan in a good place, and in a few years, she might wish to revisit them. 

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review. 

More by Jesse Q. Sutanto:

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