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    Review of THE PEARL DIVER by Sujata Massey

    Harper Collins, August 2004

    Review by Jennifer Vilches

    Rei Shimura is living in Washington DC with her fiancÚ Hugh after being forced to leave Tokyo. She feels a little lost and aimless in her new home and isn't excited about planning her wedding, so she's delighted when the opportunity to decorate a new Japanese restaurant drops into her lap. Rei jumps into her work with both feet and things are going well until her cousin Kendall is abducted from the opening dinner. Was it politics, a restaurant rivalry, or something even more sinister?

    While the police are investigating the kidnapping, the restaurant's snooty hostess asks Rei to investigate the decades-old disappearance of her Japanese war-bride mother. Andrea reached out to her because they are both half-Japanese, and Rei feels obligated to help. Just as they launch their plan to get more information from Andrea's father, Rei's Aunt Norie shows up from Japan to plan her wedding. Norie soon gets pulled into the missing-mother mystery. When Rei's investigations into the past turn dangerous in the present, it threatens to ruin her relationship with Hugh.

    This is author Sujata Massey's seventh Rei Shimura book, and although most of the others have taken place in Japan, Rei is no stranger to America. This can easily be read stand-alone, but it might be helpful to start earlier in the series to get a better feel for the relationship between Rei and Hugh.

    Massey is very good at drawing tension from the conflict between Japanese traditionalism and American individualism and independence. On the one hand, Rei obviously finds it hard to say no to people and is horrified that Norie might find out about her living arrangements with Hugh. But at the same time she is reluctant to take on the role of a wife and wants to be in full control of her own destiny. Rei's turmoil about her future unfolds against the hectic whirlwind of restaurant crises and her investigations for Andrea. In a couple of places there was so much happening at once, it almost felt like I needed to catch my breath while reading.

    Rei, Hugh and Norie are likeable and interesting characters, and Andrea became more sympathetic as events unfolded. However, I didn't like that most of the other characters with significant roles ranged from slightly unpleasant to over-the-top obnoxious. Still, it was an absorbing story, and I like Massey's insight into culture clash.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 10/26/04

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