By Dale Furutani

Dead Letter Mystery (St. Martin's Press)
October 1997, $5.99 ISBN: 0-312-96323-8

Reviewed by Cherie Jung (12/97)

First off, let me say that this author was recommended to me by a friend who owns a mystery bookstore. Several of her customers have enjoyed this book, as light reading. I can't whole-heartedly recommend it. I found the premise promising and parts of the developing story fascinating. I also found most of the characters irritating and most of the story too simplistic for my tastes. To be fair, this mystery was nominated for an Agatha award.

One part I liked involved the set up...Ken Tanaka is staging a mystery weekend. For that purpose he has rented an office and established himself as a P.I. (fake, of course). A woman walks into the office and hires him to run an errand for her. Trouble ensues and so does a murder. A real murder.

Of course, Ken decides that since he is a suspect in a grisly murder, he'll help the police by uncovering facts and clues that they haven't yet discovered. You can imagine how happy the police are with his "help."

By the time things wind up, we've had a mish-mash of things thrown into the mix, most of which, I could have done without. The overused ploy of unscrupulous sorts in Japan luring young, naive, blonde women from the U.S. to sing in nightclubs and then forcing them to become prostitutes instead, made me groan. I wanted to throw the book against the wall in a later chapter when Tanaka wasn't clever enough to figure out why certain names on a computer list didn't show up. Never for a minute did I believe that Tanaka could be that stupid.

The one area that the author touched on that I did find interesting was the World War II relocation camps. I would have preferred the author spend more time developing the relocation camp angle.

I also would have appreciated a better exposure to the language and customs of the Japanese people, both here in the United States and abroad. The book's glimpse into Japanese culture and language is too thin for me. I already know how to say chopsticks in Japanese. I know about ongiri and the few other phrases the author shares with us.

The only two characters I found interesting were Mrs. Kawashiri and Mrs. Okada. Unfortunately, Ken Tanaka and his girlfriend, Mariko are the main characters.

All of my complaints considered, I will read the second book in the series, THE TOYOTOMI BLADE, because I paid full price for it in hardcover when I bought it along with the paperback edition of DEATH IN LITTLE TOKYO.

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