It may seem like a familiar fairy tale. A step-mother, two step-siblings, and a girl who isn’t glamorous. But instead of Prince Charming or a fairy godmother, the object of the girl’s interest is a ghost. Western ghosts (pace Casper, who had to be explicitly labelled “friendly”) are usually malevolent in some way; two new books—one from Danish writer HS Norup, who spent four years in Singapore, and the other from Malaysian writer Hanna Alkaf—feature Asian ghosts who are decidedly more sympathetic.

University student Miwako Sumida has committed suicide and her small group of friends are caught completely off guard, yet determined to search for answers behind her death. Set mainly in Tokyo, Indonesian-born Clarissa Goenawan’s second novel, The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida, is a haunting story of friendship in young adulthood and how—even before social media—people are not often as they appear.

Andrea Tang seems to have it all. She’s a rising mergers and acquisitions attorney on Singapore’s 40 under 40 list. UK-educated Andrea’s goal is, via grueling hours at her Singapore law firm, to make partner at the age of thirty-three. But her family has other plans for her, which propels her to invent a boyfriend at her aunt’s Chinese New Year party. So begins Lauren Ho’s debut novel, Last Tang Standing.

In 1865, the eminent American journalist and abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivered a lecture called “Pictures and Progress”, in which he discussed the role of photography in exposing the evils of racism and slavery. Referring to Louis Daguerre, he pointed out that “men of all conditions and classes can now see themselves as others see them, and as they will be seen by those who come after them,” and that “man is the only picture-making animal in the world. He alone of all the inhabitants of earth has the capacity and passion for pictures.”

The Aristocracy of Armed Talent is a sociological study of Singapore’s military elite, which author Samuel Ling Wei Chan defines as uniformed Singapore Armed Forces officers who wear one or more stars in the Army, Navy or Air Force. The author models this work on the sociological studies of political elites by Vilfredo Pareto, Gaetano Mosca, and Robert Michels, as well as the path-breaking studies of civil-military relations written by Samuel Huntington, Morris Janowitz, and others.