Posted in ARC, Audio, Contemporary Fiction, Crime Fiction, Japan, Mystery

The Kimono Tattoo by Rebecca Copeland

Ruth Bennett is a translator working in Kyoto, Japan. Tall, redheaded Ruth is immediately recognizable as a foreigner, but she speaks impeccable Japanese and thoroughly embraces Japanese culture. She was born and raised in Japan while her parents worked as missionaries, although not the stereotypical sort. Her father was an obstetrician in a Christian hospital. Tragedy struck the family when her father was embroiled in a baseless malpractice case and her younger brother mysteriously vanished. Ruth’s parents returned to America, but Japan was home for Ruth.

Ruth’s current translation job is rather boring. She has no relatives nearby, few friends, and she’s not currently in a relationship. When a stranger knocks on her door offering her a chance to translate a novel by an author everyone assumed was dead, she gladly accepts the challenge. But as she reads the manuscript, she finds inconsistencies in writing style and the subject matter is about a dead woman’s body found naked on a nearby path. The body is covered in stunningly artistic tattoos that strongly resemble kimono fabric. After a very similar story appears on the television news, she knows the woman has been murdered.

Ruth slowly discovers she is the target of a very dangerous and powerful person. As she works to solve the puzzle of the manuscript and the tattooed woman, she discovers that she also has allies, friends and support from unexpected places.

In The Kimono Tattoo, kimonos are mentioned and observed in great detail so frequently, the reader can’t miss them. But as someone who knows very little about kimonos, I found this fascinating. The author also described the setting near Ruth’s home so well that I could picture myself walking those paths.

The mystery is just as complex as the dead woman’s tattoos. I listened to the audio version of this book and I was so engrossed in the story that I had to keep reminding myself to turn it off and go to sleep!

I looked up the author’s webpage and biography. Rebecca Copeland draws her main character’s history from her own life experiences. She is also an illustrious Japanese translator and literary critic. This is her first work of fiction.

Thank you NetGalley and Brother Mockingbird publishers for the opportunity to listen to the audio version of this book. The Kimono Tattoo is now available at your favorite print or audio book retailers.

My Rating: 5 Stars, Grade A

Posted in Japan, Murder Mystery, Mystery

Zen Attitude by Sujata Massey (Rei Shimura #2)

Publication Info: Original publication date, 1998. Harper paperback edition published 2005. Other editions available.

Summary: American-born Rei Shimura is living in Japan, struggling to get her antiques business off the ground. She works as a broker, hunting down requested pieces for Japanese clients. She just received a request from the prominent Nana Mihori to find a particular tansu, a chest of drawers with very specific styling. Nana has a lot of influence in town and if Rei can pull this job off, she will have many referrals for future jobs.

She works out of her home, which she shares with her Scottish, international lawyer, boyfriend, Hugh. Her already cluttered home is invaded by Hugh’s carefree, careless and messy brother, Angus. This throws her life with Hugh into turmoil and begins to wear on their relationship.

Nana Mihori directs Rei to a particular shop where she said a friend saw a tansu like she is looking for. Once she gets there, Rei finds herself in a bidding war with another customer. She wins, but at great personal cost — after all, Nana hasn’t paid her yet.

After the tansu is delivered to her home, Rei finds previously unnoticed flaws and realizes this tansu is a fake. She tries to return it but the seller has vanished. Then he turns up dead. Evidence begins to pile up that sends Rei on the run with no one to turn to except people she doesn’t trust.

Comments: I’ve wanted to read more in this series for almost fifteen years. During the first incarnation of The Brown Bookloft, publicists sent me hard copies of books, usually surprises based on my genre preferences. In one batch was the first book in this series, The Salaryman’s Wife. It was one of those rare books that stuck with me, leaving me want to read more by Sujata Massey.

I admit I forgot about it until the author published the well-received book The Widows of Malabar Hill., which I read and liked very much. I began hunting through over a dozen used book stores in two states trying to find a copy of Zen Attitude. I finally purchased one online through Thrift Books.

Zen Attitude has a few rough edges, particularly in its characters. There was a lot of unnecessary angst and mercurial relationship swings, but the writing was rock solid. It was the quality of the writing and the setting in Japan that most appealed to me in The Salaryman’s Wife. I found that I enjoyed both of those just as much in book number 2. I have already ordered the third book, The Flower Master.

Recommended for Mystery readers and anyone who likes books set in modern Japan.

My rating: 3.75 STARS