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The Bride's Kimono: 12/11/13
The Bride's Kimono by Sujata Massey is the fifth Rei Shimura mystery, and, as my luck oft plays out with series, the first one I've read. Rei Shimura, antiques dealer in Japan, is called back to the United States as a courier, carrying a priceless collection of Edo period kimono.
Of course as soon as she steps foot on the plane, things start to go wrong. She's forced to move out of First Class. Then when she arrives, not all the kimono are inventoried at the museum and she is forced to keep them in her hotel. Before she can even get them locked up properly, one of them is stolen. In the middle of all that chaos, someone is murdered — and Shimura feels compelled to solve the mysteries.
What makes the mystery work is Massey's attention to detail. She includes observations on Japanese culture, history and language (although Shimura struggles to read kanji) and the difficulties of being a Japanese-American living and working in Japan. Since she looks Japanese — she is expected to be Japanese and is more harshly criticized than a full blooded foreigner would be for any slip ups she makes.
Although the setting is modern day Washington D.C. and surrounds, the mystery with its various shady characters working at cross purposes reminded me most of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. Despite being able to figure out who was behind the mayhem, I was still wrapped up in the story.