The Floating Girl
HarperCollins, 2001 (2000)
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Reviewed by G. Hall
he Floating Girl
is the fourth book in the series featuring Japanese-American Rei Shimura who was raised in California. She moved to Japan to pursue her interest in Japanese antiques and culture. The author has created a unique and very interesting heroine who is an American outsider but (being fluent in the language) more of an insider in Japan than a tourist or foreign business person would be. The novels are a fascinating introduction to modern Japanese life, and Rei is a perfectly positioned observer. Previous books have focussed on the antiques trade, Zen Buddhism and the art of flower arranging. Massey's first book,
Death of a Salary Man
, was an Agatha award winner. The stories do stand alone - a new reader can easily start with the latest and then go back to read the earlier entries.
he Floating Girl
takes place in the world of manga or Japanese comics which, according to the book, form forty percent of all written material in Japan and are very popular with adults as well as children. While free-lancing for a foreign language newspaper, Rei is assigned a story on the manga culture. She enters into the world of both professional and amateur comics and is drawn into crime-solving when one of her contacts is murdered. Eventually this leads to involvement with organized crime and several very well-written action sequences in which the feisty but often foolhardy Rei is in great danger.
he strongest feature of these books is their setting. Plotting is reasonable also, but the books are weaker in clearly defining characters other than Rei. However, this is a minor shortcoming in light of the very interesting opportunity to learn about present day Japanese culture.
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