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THE SAMURAI'S DAUGHTER


By Sujata Massey

HarperCollins, March 4, 2003 (hardcover) $24.95
ISBN: 0066212901

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

This is the sixth entry in the Rei Shimura series. Rei is a California-born Japanese American living and working in Tokyo as she builds her antiques business. Many critics and reviewers have commented that this may be the best book in the series. Sadly, I do not agree. I think this may be one of the worst -- least enjoyable -- in the series so far. And unlike some, I'd rate this book less enjoyable than THE BRIDE'S KIMONO, which I also complained about. If I remember correctly, I've complained about the last three books in the series. These last three books are lacking that special zing that the earlier books in the series definitely have.

Several things contribute to the weakness of this story. However, that said, Massey is still one of only a handful of authors whose books I will purchase in hardcover as soon as they arrive on the bookstore shelf.

In THE BRIDE'S KIMONO (2001), Rei visited Washington, D. C. on business. As THE SAMURAI'S DAUGHTER opens, she travels to San Francisco to spend the Christmas holidays with her parents before returning to Tokyo. Relations with her parents are strained, at best. Rei has decided to make the best of the situation and to try to get her Japanese father to tell her about her ancestors and let her look through any family treasures and artifacts that may be stored away in the house. In the meantime, there is another guest arriving for the holidays, Rei's on again, off again, on again Scottish "boyfriend," lawyer Hugh Glendinning. He's in town to start proceedings against a huge Japanese company, trying to get reparations for victims of the war. Some victims were slave laborers, under horrible conditions, for mining enterprises. One of the victims, interviewed in San Francisco, was a laborer at a mining camp after being freed from work as a "comfort woman" for the Japanese army.

Naturally things don't go smoothly on any front. Tensions rise on the home-front. Complications develop in the lawsuit. Rei is relieved to return to Tokyo, even though the situation becomes even more complicated and more dangerous for everyone involved.

This story had potential. Alas, it was undeveloped potential. The various "crimes" were handle ineffectually. Albeit that the crimes are never Massey's strong point, the lack of immersion into the Japanese culture that we readers expect, make the crimes seem almost silly or trivial. Frankly, the various characters were pretty dull, except for Rosa. The resolution of the conflict was disappointing. Rei's resolution of her own troubles lacked inspiration.

I am concerned by the direction the series has taken (or is taking). The most appealing aspect of the series, in terms of story line and characters, for me, are the experiences and adventures Rei has in Japan, not trudging around the United States, where she seems almost as miserable to be here as I am to have to read about it. I lived in San Francisco for many years. There are plenty of books set in San Francisco, thank you. This one made San Francisco boring. If I want to read about the Bay area, I'll go elsewhere. If I want to read a mystery set in Washington, D. C., I'm sure I can find one. As a reader, I want Rei to let me tag along with her in Japan.

All may not be lost. There is still time, before the next book is printed, to get back on track. I just hope the author will do so.

A final "nit pick." I hated the typos. Words that technically were words but not in their proper place became distracting too many times. A spell-checking program can't and won't catch these sort of mistakes. Better editing might.

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