The Salaryman’s Wife [Sujata Massey]

Date Started: 1 June, 2021

Date Completed: 2 June, 2021

Source: Amazon India Kindle Store

Goodreads Summary:

Japanese-American Rei Shimura is a 27-year-old English teacher living in one of Tokyo’s seediest neighborhoods. She doesn’t make much money, but she wouldn’t go back home to California even if she had a free ticket (which, thanks to her parents, she does.) Her independence is threatened however, when a getaway to an ancient castle town is marred by murder.

Rei is the first to find the beautiful wife of a high-powered businessman, dead in the snow. Taking charge, as usual, Rei searches for clues by crashing a funeral, posing as a bar-girl, and somehow ending up pursued by police and paparazzi alike. In the meantime, she manages to piece together a strange, ever-changing puzzle—one that is built on lies and held together by years of sex and deception.

Goodreads: The Salaryman’s Wife

Notes:

  • After enjoying The Widows of Malabar Hill and The Satapur Moonstone so much, I wanted more of Sujata Massey, and got to this almost a year after reading those two. And, well, hmmm.
  • I had seen “Agatha Award Winner” and hadn’t realised until after the purchase that it was Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Let’s be nice and say that Sujata Massey has really improved between her first book and the Perveen Mistry books.
  • What didn’t work for me was the sheer clash of plots and red herrings. There’s a murder main plot, and corporate espionage and yakuza sub-plots. I ended up getting confused by all the red herrings – the how and why of the murder got explained well enough, but I still don’t understand quite what was happening with the espionage and the gangsters – or if it ever got satisfactorily wrapped up.
  • It’s also kind of annoying because it follows the murder mystery rules – the first four chapters have almost everything you need; so all the additional red herrings feel tacked on, later additions.
  • What I did enjoy: the glimpse into Japan. ‘Rei-styru.’ The description of having a vegetarian diet in Japan. The excursions and discursions into art and antiques.
  • Rei’s persona – grumpy, insisting on independence even if it means staying in a seedy neighbourhood, tenuously employed – reminded me today of Jessica Jones. Since this came out 18 years before the TV series (and so probably 10 years before the comic book), I don’t know if this inspired Jessica Jones, or if both draw upon older traditions of burned out detectives (either burned out women detectives, or both decided to take a burned out guy and apply the stereotype to a woman as well).
  • One difference though – the sexism and violence Jessica Jones faces is extreme – and the sort that Rei faces is a heaping pile of smaller indignities. Being groped on a train, being condescended to, being sniggered at by her own students…
  • This sort of talks about hair in the way that Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie did, though not as extensively. But the contrast between Rei’s bob cut being Japanese-American and how putting on a straight hair wig is a Japanese disguise kept coming up. And the Afro-hair also comes up, in Mariko’s character.
  • Reading about 1997 technology and the marvels of six hour long lasting lithium ion batteries today is a really weird experience and a different kind of anachronism compared to reading Agatha Christie’s description of technology that was already obsolete by the time I had starting reading it. It didn’t feel as anachronistic when I read Cryptonomicon six years after it was written – somewhere between 2008 and 2010 has really been a turning point – the iPhone, perhaps?
  • This had floppy disks! Floppy disks!
  • And even the concept of returning a purchase and getting cash instead of a credit card reversal seems weird and magical. Of course, maybe that’s a Japan vs India regulatory issue and not an anachronism.

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