The Bride's Kimonoby Sujata Massey
Antiques dealer Rei Shimura has managed to snag one of the most lucrative and prestigious jobs of her career: a renowned museum in Washington, D.C., has invited her to exhibit her kimonos and give a lecture on them. Accompanied by a gaggle of Japanese office ladies bent on a week of shopping, Rei lands in the capital. But her big break could ultimately break her.… See more details below
Antiques dealer Rei Shimura has managed to snag one of the most lucrative and prestigious jobs of her career: a renowned museum in Washington, D.C., has invited her to exhibit her kimonos and give a lecture on them. Accompanied by a gaggle of Japanese office ladies bent on a week of shopping, Rei lands in the capital. But her big break could ultimately break her. Within hours one of the kimonos is stolen, and then Rei's passport is discovered in a shopping mall dumpster—on the dead body of one of the Japanese tourists. Trouble is only beginning, though, for now Rei's parents have arrived and so has her ex-boyfriend. To track down the kimono and unmask a killer, Rei's got to do some clever juggling, fast talking, and quick sleuthing, or this trip home could be her last.
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For most people, a telephone ringing in the middle of the night is a bad omen.
In my case, it is business as usual. The caller could be an overseas client ignorant of the time difference between New York and Japan, or he could be my best friend, Richard Randall, stranded after the subway's close and in need of a place to crash. There is always a reason to fumble for the phone sandwiched between my futon and the old lacquered tray that serves as my nightstand.
"Rei Shimura Antiques," I croaked, unsure if I was awake or still dreaming.
"Is this Rei?" The voice on the other end sounded like my mother's, but she should have known about the time difference.
"Yes, Mom." I sighed heavily, trying to give her the message that I'd been asleep.
"Actually, I'm not your mother --"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't catch your name." What I had caught on to was that I'd been fooled by the super-modulated, almost English, but really American accent. Flowing into my eardrum at two-forty in the Tokyo morning, it rang with a surreal clarity.
"My name is Allison Powell. I'm the textile curator at the Museum of Asian Arts in Washington, D.C. I don't know if you've heard of us."
"Of course I have," I said, coming fully awake. I'd made a few visits to the museum near Embassy Row when I was a college student. I remembered the charming black-and-white marble-tiled foyer and a pleasant collection of Utamaro woodblock prints on the walls. There were other wonderful Asian antiquities, too: Chineseterra-cotta figures, Korean celadon-glazed pots, and Kashmiri shawls. It was the kind of place that had served as inspiration for my own fledgling business in Japanese antiques.
"Can you give me a few minutes? I have a proposition for you."
I had a suspicion that all Allison wanted was a guided tour on her next trip to Japan. The previous month an unknown Los Angeles woman had landed on my doorstep and asked me to escort her round-trip to Kyoto -- going Dutch, of course.
Trying not to sound too rude, I said, "Well, let me guess. You're coming to Japan and need to be shown around? I can recommend a wonderful English-speaking guide --"
"No, I actually want to give you the chance to take a trip," Allison said brightly. "You see, we are about to launch an exhibit on Edo-period kimono. I know it's short notice, but I want you to join us for the opening festivities a month from today."
"Are you sure that my mother didn't put you up to this?" I was suspicious, because my mother had been badgering me to come home to the United States to visit her and my father for the last year.
"I don't know your mother, but I do know about your expertise in Japanese textiles."
"Thank you," I said, still feeling paranoid. "I'm wondering who gave you my personal phone number, because it wasn't in any of my articles."
"A member of our advisory committee had the information. I do apologize for the short notice, Rei. We were supposed to have a speaker from the Morioka Museum, but he canceled at the last minute, so that's why we're so desperate to get someone like you. We can pay an honorarium, per diem, and your travel expenses."
"Oh, really?" So I was a second choice. Still, I might as well hear about the money.
"Three thousand is what we were going to pay Mr. Nishio," Allison purred.
"That's barely going to cover the cost of a night in a place like D.C. --" Three thousand yen was about thirty dollars.
"Well, three thousand dollars is a bit higher than what an American courier would typically get for a ten-day visit. However, I know you're not on salary from a Japanese museum, so I could see if I can swing an extra five hundred. Would that suit?"
She'd been thinking in dollars, not yen. I said, "I don't understand. What is the money supposed to take care of?"
"Seven days' worth of hotel, food, city transportation, and incidentals -- we budgeted that at two thousand and were planning to give a thousand dollars in honorarium for two brief talks on kimono of the late Edo period. The plane tickets will be arranged out of a separate budget --"
"I can do that for you," I said quickly. I knew I could get a much cheaper round-trip flight through my Tokyo connections.
"You could do that and keep the difference, if there's any, as long as you fly business when you're carrying the kimono. Economy class on the way back is fine. You see, the kimono will stay in the U.S. with us for three months. At the end of it, we could possibly hire you again to do a pickup of the goods, if you're interested..."
Allison chattered on, but I was busy making my own happy, rapid calculations. Not even factoring in airfare, I was being offered a budget of $500 a day. It was an outrageous amount. I could do the Washington gig and profit.
"I'm going to have to check my calendar," I said, snapping on the electrified antique lantern next to my bed. "Why don't I write down your phone number right now, just in case we get disconnected --" Or if I wake up and worry this was a dream.
"Certainly." Alison rattled off a number with a 202 area code, then gave me her fax number and an e-mail address.
"Um, I don't e-mail."
There was a pause. "No e-mail?"
"E-mail came to Japan a little later than in the States. I haven't signed up yet." The...
The Bride's Kimono. Copyright © by Sujata Massey. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Sujata Massey was a reporter for the Baltimore Evening Sun and spent several years in Japan teaching English and studying Japanese. She is the author of The Salaryman's Wife, Zen Attitude, The Flower Master, The Floating Girl, The Bride's Kimono, The Samurai's Daughter, The Pearl Diver, and The Typhoon Lover. She lives in Minneapolis.
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When the invitation came from the Washington DC Museum of Asian Arts to provide a talk on Edo era kimonos, American expatriate Rei Shimura accepts. Not only is this a chance to speak on her favorite topic, the Tokyo antiques-buyer will visit her parents in California. As Rei transports the exhibit with her, she meets Hana Matsura and several other Japanese female tourists on the plane. In Washington not long after the pan Pacific Ocean flight lands, an invaluable uninsured kimono is stolen from Rei and than someone murders Hana, who had Rei¿s passport at the time. With her former boyfriend lawyer Hugh Glendinning turning up and the police suspecting her, Rei begins making her own inquiries to prove her innocence at the same time she wonders why she cares so much for both Hugh and her wealthy Japanese boyfriend Takeo Kayama. Though an engaging insightful tale, the latest Rei mystery spends a lot of paragraphs on sidebars such as how to use a kimono and tidbits on shoguns and samurai. For those readers who enjoy engaging divagating asides this enhances the who-done-it. For those who prefer a concentrated amateur sleuth tale with a subplot on cross-cultural relationships, these cultural insights take away from the plot. Rei retains her spunk that the audience observed in THE FLOATING GIRL. Thus how much a reader relishes Sujata Massey¿s latest amateur sleuth novel depends on how much depth the audience desires for the subplots. Harriet Klausner
poor plot and worse packing of kimomas a shopping bag