ZEN ATTITUDE
By Sujata Massey

Harper Paperbacks
June, 1998 $5.99

Reviewed by Cherie Jung (9/98)

If you missed THE SALARYMAN'S WIFE which introduced series character Rei Shimura, a Japanese-American, living in Tokyo, trying to carve out a career as a private antiques buyer, then do yourself a favor and pick it up when you pick up a copy of ZEN ATTITUDE. Read it first. Meet Rei. Get to know her. You'll be glad you did.

In ZEN ATTITUDE, Rei is still trying to eek out a living buying antiques for private, interested buyers. She is living, somewhat uncomfortably, with her rather wealthy, lawyer boyfriend, a Scottsman. The differences in their earning power causes some friction in Rei's mind. Meanwhile, she's managed to track down and purchase, without explicit authorization, an expensive antique chest that a client had sent her in search of, all over the countryside. As it turns out, Rei didn't get quite what she paid for. Not one to take being cheated lightly, Rei sets out to get her money back. Before she knows it, the scam with the not-so-antique chest of drawers has lead to murder. And once again, Rei uses her wit to solve the crimes.

I thoroughly enjoy the character of Rei Shimura, and most of the other characters introduced so far, except the Scottish lawyer/boyfriend. I find him a bit tiring. His presence, and the way his character has developed, reminds me too much of a romance novel "hero." I'd rather Rei were on her own. Or at least, unattached. This is a common complaint, of mine. Female sleuths who rely on or are inhibited by their non-sleuthing "mates."

But that small quibble aside, I highly recommend this series. Especially if you like Japanese culture. The books make you feel like you are running alongside with Rei, as she searches out the valuable antiques or the criminals. The scattering of Japanese words (always explained) is a treat. I have several Japanese friends, and have often wished my command of the language was better than it is. Each time I read one of Ms. Massey's books, I feel like I've gotten a free trip to Japan, complete with a charming guide!


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