THE CASE OF THE FATAL FEAST

In this exclusive mini-mystery, writer Nury Vittachi, author of The Feng Shui Detective series of novels, challenges readers to solve a short story puzzle about a murderous meal.



It smelt better than it tasted. I refer to the poisoned banquet which featured prominently in one of the strangest cases the feng shui detective ever investigated.

As well as being perplexing, it was also a sad case, because geomancer C.F. Wong lost a wealthy, fee-paying client. On a positive note, Mr. Wong felt that his contribution to the investigation had an important outcome for more than one person.

This is how it happened.

On the first day of every Lunar New Year, tycoon Stanley Xie always invited his ex-wife Xiao Bing for dinner. They two hated each other, and during their short, violence-filled marriage, they had allegedly tried to murder each other on at least six different occasions.

Yet feng shui master Wong examined their birth charts and told them that they would never be happy unless they ate together. So every year, they did eat together - just once.

To get it over with, peace was declared between the two archenemies on the first day of every Chinese new year and they shared a meal. Because of their mutual hate, great care was taken to make sure neither harmed the other. They alternated venues (this year it was Madam Bing's house). No carving knives were allowed. Both were frisked by each other's security officers. An independent food taster checked every dish and drink before either was allowed to consume anything.

This evening proceeded along the lines of previous years. The conversation was icy but the menu was heartwarming. The preprandial drink was 18-year-old Glenmorangie and the first course featured quail topped with Sevruga caviar.

The food taster sampled everything that was served - including the salt, the pepper, the chilli sauce and the drinks.

So it came as a surprise when, just 11 minutes into the proceedings, Mr. Xie spat out a piece of meat, dropped his scotch-on-the rocks onto his plate with a crash and clutched his stomach. He roared with pain. "I've been poisoned," he gasped, falling to the floor.

Within seconds, Xiao Bing was also retching and thrashing around on the ground.

The building was sealed and police summoned. Doctors raced to the scene. But it was too late. Mr. Xie was dead, and Madam Bing was whisked away to have her stomach pumped.

A chemical expert named Doctor Chin detected poison on Mr. Xie's plate and began a battery of tests.

The first thing police did was arrest the food taster, a young man named Artie Huang, who had suspiciously missed a powerful toxic agent.

Artie did not call his lawyer. Instead he called his uncle, feng shui master C.F. Wong.

The geomancer arrived as quickly as he could. The food taster was distraught. He said: "I ate a mouthful of everything that Mr. Xie and Madam Bing ate. I drank what they drank. I don't understand why I'm still alive."

Mr. Wong then went to see Doctor Chin, the chemical expert. Chin said he could not work out why the food taster was fine, and the ex-wife was not seriously ill, but Mr. Xie was dead. They'd all had the same food, and Madam Bing had eaten the most. "The poison was a painful one that burns out your insides. I don't know who did what to whom, but there's a cold and nasty heart at the centre of this case," Chin added.

Wong nodded. "A cold and nasty heart is the key," he said.

He told the police to release food taster Artie Huang and arrest Madam Bing.

Who exactly tried to murder who, and how?

Click here for the answer.