Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Bride's Kimono by Sujata Massey

I have finally finished the last Sujata Massey book on my bookshelf. No more Rei Shimura Japan mysteries for me. There were enough engaging aspects to the series that I'm glad that I have read them. But, there were enough annoying moments in the writing that made me wonder why I was reading them.

In The Bride's Kimono, Rei travels to Washington D.C. to bring kimono to a museum for an exhibit and to give a speech on kimono history while she is there. The transition from Japan to the United States opened up a new world of Massey's writing. One of the first things I noticed: Massey isn't just negative about Japan, she's negative about the United States too. I have to wonder if there is any culture that she is not derisive of. In this book Americans are materialistic, crime is rampant, and the police are ineffectual and offensive. I remember an old adage which suggests that any person who has lived in more than one culture will always find faults with all of the cultures that he knows. But, I feel like Massey focuses so heavily on the negative that it is impossible to see the positive in her worlds.

On the other hand, this book was a more intriguing mystery than some of her other work. The criminal was not obvious. The reason for the crime was unanticipated. The characters who are suspect are varied and problematic. But, for fans of one particular character of Massey's, this book resolves an ongoing dilemma. Hugh Glendinning is back and Rei finally ends up with the man that she should be with. This book has a greater focus on the stereotypical romantic genre than her other books, but I don't think it is poorly done. And, in this book, readers get to watch the interactions between Rei and the parents that she discusses in each of her books.

One thing that kept me reading was Massey's ability to create a sense of tension. When I put the book down I wanted to know what was going to happen, where Rei would go next. At times I felt like the tension got a bit drawn out, but it was engaging nonetheless.

I won't be running out to buy any more books by Sujata Massey. I am glad that I read the ones that I did. I have learned a bit about Japanese culture and am curious to learn more - in part to dispel some of the stereotypes that I feel Massey has perpetuated.

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