May 2, 2007

Book Review: Girl in a Box by Sujata Massey

Another side of Tokyo?

Try reading Sujata Massey, whose mystery series is set in modern Japan.

Her most recent book, Girl in a Box, reveals the shopping culture and shopping habits of Japanese and expatriates alike, and the sales organization of ritzy Tokyo department stores. Of course, because this is a mystery novel about big business, the yakuza (gangsters) are involved in the plot, as are a shady American or two.

The sales culture, the relationship between managers and staff, and staff and customers, all point to the enormous efforts made to please clients.

On another note, there is a visit to a hot springs resort in the north, where the store managers go for a business conference, and so we also learn about public baths and bathing "etiquette."

Other novels in the series delve into the world of Japanese arts, folk culture, antiques, and religion. We see Japan while following the exploits of the main character, Rei Shimura - English teacher, aficionada of Japanese folk arts, antiques dealer, and sometime spy. She is also a haafu (half Japanese), with close relatives in both Japan and America, which gives her insight into both cultures. She appears in The Flower Master, The Bride's Kimono, Zen Attitude, and The Typhoon Lover, among others written by Sujata Massey.

Sujata Massey herself is part Indian and part German, but grew up in California. She spent many years in Japan teaching English and studying Japanese and says that, in Japan, she feels more at home than in India.

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