Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Flower Master by Sujata Massey

Due to less than careful reading of copyright dates, I read the last two Massey novels out of order. I finished The Floating Girl first, when in fact it is a story that comes after The Flower Master in the chronology of Rei Shimura's life. So, I knew going into The Flower Master a bit about what would happen to Rei and therefore knew at least one person who could not have been the murderer.

I have, as you may have noticed, a love/hate relationship with Massey's books. I continue to read them for the cultural information that I learn while I nonetheless feel that their are flaws in her writing. That having been said, The Flower Master is one of my favorite books in the series so far. I learned a fair amount about Japanese culture that I did not know - one of the greatest assets of Massey's books. In this instance it was a detailed explanation of the role of ikebana - flower arranging - for Japanese women. I thought that Massey did a good job elucidating the female-centric world and the jealousies that exist which are played out through flowers. She adds interesting cultural touches -a Koren-Japanese woman who never gets recognized for her hard work because of her heritage, for example.

There is also a secondary story about the impact of pesticides in flowers. It is logical to realize that flowers sold for decorative purposes have pesticides being used on them, but it is not something I have ever heard about before. Massey successfully introduces an environmental message into her book about the dangers of beauty and the appeal of a more natural type of nature. This sub-plot in the story also demonstrates a cultural interaction between the Latin American world and Japan that I was unaware of. (Amero-centric that I sometimes am, I think I forget that most nations have interactions with each other not just with the United States.)

The resolution to the book was sadly lacking. It was too quickly resolved and the choice of murderer seemed to come out of left field. I understood the choice of assailant, but I feel like Massey needed to lead up to the answer more deftly and once the murderer was discovered she needed to more clearly resolve the story line. Instead, the murderer is found, chapter ends. Next chapter starts the next week. What happened in between,? As far as I was concerned a lot of people were left sitting at a party waiting for food and flowers.

Once again, a mixed review for Massey. I'll keep reading (I have one or two more on the shelf) for the cultural story. But, I will probably once again find fault with her technical skills as a mystery author.

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