It's tough to keep cool when the heat is on
Japanese-American Rei Shimura finally has a life to be proud of in Tokyo: running her own antiques business and living with her Scottish lawyer boyfreind. But when Rei overpays for a beautiful chest of drawers, she's in for the worst deal of her life. The con man who sold her the "Tansu" is found dead, and like it or not Rei's opened a pandora's box of mystery, theft, and murder.
Only Rei sees the "Tansu" as the key. It will take a quick wit, fast feet, and above all a "Zen Attitude" for Rei to discover what a young monk, a judo star, and an ancient scroll have in common, and why her own life hangs in the balance."You can't find a better guide to the mean streets of Japan than Rei Shimura!... An excellant new series from a very talented writer."
A" People" magazine "Page-Turner of the week"
"Sly, Sexy, and Deftly done."
Sujata Massey is an exciting new author published by HarperPaperbacks. Massey's first novel, "The Salaryman's Wife," has just been nominated for the prestigious Anthony Award. Massey's second novel, "Zen Attitude," also featuring Rei Shimura, a 27 year-old Japanese American English teaching living in Tokyo, will be out in June 1998.
Q: How did you conceive of the plot for "Zen Attitude?"
A: I had the good fortune while living in Japan to spend time teaching in Kamakura, a wonderful small city that flourished in the twelfth through fourteenth centuries when it was the seat of Japan's shogun rulers. During this time, many Zen temples and monasteries were built. I have visited many of them and had the pleasure of meeting several Zen priests and their families. Iwas drawn to write a story that combined this picturesque setting, family dynamics, and some of the tenets of the Zen Buddhist faith. To learn more about the religion while I was writing the book, I spent some time in Zen training at a Japanese-established Zen monastery in New York.
Q: How has Rei changed since "The Salaryman's Wife?"
A: Rei's career as an antiques buyer has blossomed and is the linchpin for the plot, which involves a trail of disastrous events that result from one unlucky antique purchase. Rei is also involved in a committed relationship with a boyfriend who is going through some tensions that are tough for her to deal with. I think Rei has become a stronger, more secure person, but she still has some doubts about her ability to understand Japanese people and culture. When a killer comes too close for comfort, she escapes to the woods where there are hazards a Tokyo girl would not normally encounter.
Q: What role does the search for personal identity play in "Zen Attitude" and how do you think it has changed since your first novel, "The Salaryman's Wife?"
A: In "The Salaryman's Wife," Rei was struggling to find her place in Japanese society. Now she's got a promising new career and a cushy apartment, but she can't help wondering when she'll make enough money to really support herself, and whether living with someone who pays the rent makes her a "kept woman." Rei also deals with the issue of sibling rivalry when she sees a battle for family assets take place between two young members of a priestly Zen family. A similar conflict appears in her own life when Hugh Glendinning's bother appears for an unexpected extended visit to Tokyo. Rei learnsa lot about what makes a family by the time "Zen Attitude" draws to a close.
Q: What are some of the main themes that are essential to "Zen Attitude?"
A: I titled the book "Zen Attitude" to reflect my curiosity about whether it's right to simply accept things as they happen. Rei has to decide whether this is a good attitude for her'or whether she should fight destiny'as the mystery plays out. This book also reflects my interest in the changing role of women in Japan. Rei makes friends with Akemi Mihori, a straight-shooting, feisty judo practitioner who refuses to get married. Akemi is contrasted with her mother, Nana Mihori, who is a very traditional woman devoted to the preservation of Japan's historic buildings and the cultural arts.
Q: Can you tell us about your upcoming projects? Will Rei Shimura play an important role in your next book?
A: I'm working on a third mystery to be published in April 1999 that will explore the world of ikebana, or Japanese flower arranging. I have studied ikebana for five years, so I'm relishing the chance to meld cherry blossoms with a puzzling murder. The novel will feature Rei and bring back some old friends from The Salaryman's Wife including Richard Randall, Mr. Waka, and Rei's Aunt Norie and Cousin Tom.
Interested readers can find The Salaryman's Wife in their bookstores now. Sujata M