Shadow Play is the first in a series set in rural Malaysia during the 1970s. At the center of the series is Mak Cik Maryam, one of the middle-aged "aunties" who sell batiks in the local market and offer advice on any subject that might cross their paths. Of course, not everyone is grateful for the advice. The new police chief, for example, seems to imagine that he could solve this terrible murder on his own, without Maryam's help. She soon puts him straight, and sets out sleuthing. But solving the murder will take Maryam into some hidden corners of a community she thought she knew well. It will introduce her to some ugly aspects of the Shadow Play -- the traditional Malyasian theater and the performers who specialize in it. And it will require her to acknowledge that jealousy, rivalries and even black magic run like a dark river through a world she had imagined was simple and sunlit.