Life of a Detective: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Neil Humphreys’ bipolar detective has some cynical words for us
By Jaclynn Seah
Few people get the opportunity to speak with a top detective in the Singapore Police Force; even fewer get to speak personally with a famous one from Neil Humphreys’ Marina Bay Sins . We caught Detective Inspector Stanley Low from the Special Crimes Unit between cases for a few quick questions on fighting crime in seemingly safe Singapore.
BuySingLit (BSL): Tell us how you became an investigator with the Singapore Police Force.
I became a detective in a different Singapore, a naive Singapore, where I believed in the flag-raising, the sunny island's law and order, Majulah Singapura, the meritocracy, the whole nine yards. I thought there was a clear distinction between right and wrong, between the bad guys and the guy in the big white hat. But there isn't. And that's what pisses me off most. I'm good at my job, the best, no one else is better. But each case strips away a little more of my soul. I'm not sure how much I've got left to give. To be honest, I'm struggling to care.
BSL: Tell us about the most disturbing case you’ve worked on?
Breaking up the Tiger Syndicate almost broke me. I spent two years undercover, as a grubby, bookies runner called Ah Lian. I earned the trust of Tiger*, this old-time ah pek who ran the world's biggest match-fixing syndicate. He was amiable, paternal, almost a father figure towards me. He was also a sociopath. I had to become him to catch him. He's in Changi now, awaiting the hangman's noose. But he still follows me everywhere.
*Read more about this case in Neil’s debut novel Match Fixer
BSL: What is the secret to your success in solving crime?
My best quality is also my worst quality. My shrink calls me a misanthrope. The other guys in the Special Crimes unit call me an a**hole. The other guys are right. I think the worst of everyone - suspects, witnesses, even the victims. That way, I'm never disappointed. It also helps me see clearly. If I think the worst of suspects, I can think like them. I dive into the disgusting cesspool of our so-called humanity. When I emerge, I usually have the most depraved answers. And I can never shake off the stench.
BSL: Tell us one mystery about you or your life that no one has solved.
Why I'm so good as a detective and so bad as a human being. My shrink keeps trying to solve that mystery and I keep telling her not to bother. I can get into the brains of most lunatics, but I've given up trying to get into my own.
Pick up a copy of Marina Bay Sins to find out how Inspector Low sniffs out the bad guys and fights his own demons, and the sequel Rich Kill Poor Kill. Follow #BuySingLit for more insightful interviews with your favourite local crime fighters and mystery solvers this month.
“Walking with Murderers in Sexy Singapore” was a popular #BuySingLit 2017 tour based on Marina Bay Sins.
Neil Humphreys left his hometown in England for Singapore in 1996 where he stayed for eleven years. He then went to Australia only to return in 2011. His best-selling works: Notes from an Even Smaller Island (2001), Scribbles from the Same Island (2003) and Final Notes from a Great Island2006) were written during his first sojourn in Singapore. His other works include Be My Baby (2008), the novels Match Fixer (2010) and Premier Leech (2011), and Return to a Sexy Island (2012). In 2016, Neil released Rich Kill Poor Kill, which was shortlisted for the Singapore Book Prize.
Thanks to Neil Humphreys for Stanley’s interview, and Marshall Cavendish for the book cover image.