Although she teaches English to survive, Rei's true love is antiques. Finding herself on her own for New Year's, she decides to take a little getaway. She travels by train to Shiroyama, stays at an inn her boss has recommended, and hopes to spend a relaxing time sightseeing and exploring the antique shops in the area.
Instead, she finds herself caught up in a murder investigation, after the elegant wife of a wealthy Japanese businessman (or "salaryman") dies in the night. Rei discovers the body in the snow, and is called upon by the police to help with translating English during police interviews, as two of the other guests at the inn are native English speakers. One of them is a handsome Scottish lawyer to whom Rei is alternately attracted (he is very handsome and charming) and repelled (he's exactly the kind of man she came to Japan to get away from).
I enjoyed the setting of this mystery, especially all the interesting facets of Japanese culture that are woven though the narrative. The mystery was engaging, with a few red herrings sprinkled throughout the text, but it was not difficult to solve, at least not for this reader. I don't typically read mysteries just for the mystery, though - if I don't care about the characters, than I don't care whodunit. I could have done with a bit more character description and depth - sometimes I couldn't really feel that that motives for characters' actions were quite solid enough - but that is a small quibble for this most promising first novel in a mystery series. I will definitely be reading about Rei Shimura's further adventures.
Books in the Rei Shimura mystery series (to date):
- The Salaryman's Wife
- Zen Attitude
- The Flower Master
- The Floating Girl
- The Bride's Kimono
- The Samurai's Daughter
- The Pearl Diver
- The Typhoon Lover
- Girl in a Box
Winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel
Other blog reviews: