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THE BRIDE'S KIMONO


by Sujata Massey

HarperCollins Books, 2001
ISBN: 0-06-019933-4

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

Yeah! The author is back on track.

As you know (or can read in my review) I was very disappointed in the previous book, THE FLOATING GIRL. I felt that the author had changed the "formula"- decreasing the Japanese terminology and customs so expertly woven into the preceding three books (THE FLOWER MASTER, ZEN ATTITUDE and THE SALARYMAN'S WIFE).

For me, one of the most exciting and interesting aspects of the series is when the author interjects Japanese terms and insights about the Japanese culture via her protagonist, Rei Shimura. Without the culture clashes or insights, this series would not be as compelling to me. It would just be one more female amateur sleuth goes poking her nose around where it doesn't belong type of books.

Rei is a sort of "fish out of water" both in her daily life and in her adventures. She wants to live in Japan and make a living as an antiques dealer. She's good at what she does, but that doesn't mean things come easily for her. She is trying to fit into a society that will never fully accept her because she is Japanese-American, not pure bred Japanese. Being able to speak the Japanese language fluently isn't enough. Being of Japanese parents isn't enough. Having important and well-respected relatives living in Japan isn't enough. Rei was born in America which makes her not fully Japanese, in the eyes of the Japanese people of Japan. Of course, it doesn't help matters that she can't comfortably read the Japanese language, isn't much interested in studying tea ceremony, or flower arranging and is still unmarried, at her age. She also has the uncanny ability to keep stumbling into and over corpses--attracting the attention of the police on more than one occasion--all things a refined Japanese lady would never do!

The stories are best when Rei is slightly off-balance. Not quite fitting here or there.

This time out, Rei is off-balance in America. And despite not being Japanese enough in Japan, in America, she is deemed to be Japanese by nearly everyone she meets because of her looks and her language skills.

The story involves Rei acting as a courier for an expensive, nearly priceless, set of kimono that are being borrowed by an American museum for display. Rei is not the choice of courier for either the American museum or the Japanese museum who is loaning the kimono but circumstances lead her to the job. Of course, nothing goes as it should and things get progressively worse for Rei. At one point, she is even accused of working as a prostitute!

While Rei struggles to sort out what is really going on, she develops "man" trouble (as in two boyfriends in the same city at the same time) and parent trouble and more visitors than she needs or wants.

In THE BRIDE'S KIMONO, the author has returned to the formula that first made this series so popular -- a compelling story with just the right mix of mystery, Japanese culture, and headaches for Rei. I truly look forward to the next book in this series.

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