One night, out of the blue, the Museum of Asian Arts in Washington D.C calls and requests antiques dealer Rei Shimura to act as a courier to bring some priceless Edo-period kimono from the Morioka Museum in Tokyo and give a lecture on them. In a shaky financial situation, Rei jumps at this opportunity to not only make some money, but also to visit family in the US. But first she has to face a gauntlet of disapproving males. First her Japanese boyfriend Takeo discourages her to leave, citing his belief that America is a country filled with criminals. Then itís the turn of the Morioka Museum officials, who are censorious and blatantly concerned that Rei, whoís an American citizen, has been asked to transport priceless Japanese articles. On top it the fact that Rei is a woman is another strike against her as far as the typically chauvinistic Japanese men are concerned. But a determined Rei manages to smooth over things with her innate knowledge of "tatamae" -- that is, surface courtesy. However, she is not as successful with Takeo.
Along with a tour group of Japanese women bent on a hectic week of non-stop shopping, Rei arrives in DC. Things start to unravel soon after that, as first a priceless kimono disappears from under Reiís care. Then a woman in the tour group goes missing. A deeply worried Rei tries to solve this untenable situation without involving the police or informing the Morioka Museum. Meanwhile, the DC museum curator is intent on squeezing every drop of use out of Rei. To further compound Reiís problems, her ex-boyfriend walks back into her life with every intention of picking up where they left off. As Rei is still reeling under this shock, her parents arrive. Things go crazy as the mystery deepens and Rei herself becomes the prime suspect. Soon Rei is battling her unruly emotions while trying to do some amateur sleuthing and fast-talking.
Sujata Massey is back with her intrepid Japanese-American sleuth Rei Shimura, in her fifth mystery, The Brideís Kimono. Reiís life is as hectic and messier as ever, and once again she tumbles headlong into a mystery. Her character is complicated and complex, as Massey reveals how torn Rei is trying to balance the two widely differing heritages in her. Through her eyes, we see the best and the worst in both cultures. Many intimate aspects of Japanese society, their customs, their complex rituals, and their unusual food are all depicted. Different kimono -- how theyíre made, their history and significance, and the detailed and intricate manner of wearing them -- beautifully come to life in Sujata Masseyís lyrical yet simple words. Masseyís use of descriptive narrative paints a vivid and colorful picture of DC. However, the pace is at times rapid and at times vapid. Reiís actions and motives arenít always clear, and useless details at times cram the pages. But Sujata Massey makes up for it through the intricately plotted mystery, where itís impossible to even begin to guess as to the identity of the culprit. There is some humor in the book and some titillating interludes to heat up the pages.