Authors: Sujata Massey
The Kizuna Coast
is Sujata Massey’s most moving novel in the Rei Shimura mystery series so far. Her and her sleuth’s love for Japan and its people is evident in this tale involving the destruction of the earthquake and resulting tsunami in the Tohoku region in 2011. While Rei follows clues to locate her antiques mentor and later investigate a murder, readers get an authentic look at what it was like for survivors and rescue workers days after the devastating disaster. Bravo to Massey’s clear-eyed recounting of a recovery that is still ongoing.”
—Naomi Hirahara, Edgar-award winning author of
Murder on Bamboo Lane
“Agatha-winner Massey’s engaging tenth mystery to feature antiques dealer and part-time spy Rei… An appealing protagonist and memorable supporting characters blend smoothly with lessons in Hawaiian and Japanese history in a tale sure to win new readers for the series.”
“Fans of Sujata Massey’s series, starring stylish Japanese antiquities dealer Rei Shimura, are in for a fashion show as well as a mystery… Catching up with Rei is always rewarding.”
GIRL IN A BOX
“Massey builds the bridge between mystery fiction and mainstream women’s fiction… A lively, intuitive view of contrasting societies and a young woman trying to find her place in the world.”
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
THE TYPHOON LOVER
“Massey’s pungent take on mixed marriages and East-West culture clashes is first-rate.”
THE PEARL DIVER
“Combining the legal mystery with Japanese history and antiques is a winning stroke for Ms. Massey. Intricately plotted and filled with Asian lore and customs, this charming love story is spiced with courage and danger.”
Dallas Morning News
THE SAMURAI’S DAUGHTER
“The cross-cultural suspense story is as active as the traffic pattern at Dupont Circle… Japanese pop culture references, style, intrigue and the quick pace of
THE BRIDE’S KIMONO
combine… to attract hip readers.”
THE BRIDE’S KIMONO
“Sujata Massey takes readers on a thoughtful tour of contemporary Japanese youth culture in this accomplished murder mystery… deftly sketching everyday life in parts of Tokyo rarely seen by tourists, Massey tells a series of overlapping stories about identity, the popular media and the hilarious frenzy of comic book culture.”
THE FLOATING GIRL
“A totally captivating experience. A unique plot, exceptional protagonist, and some subtle cultural lessons are as beautifully arranged as a vase of cherry blossoms.”
THE FLOWER MASTER
“A gifted storyteller who delivers strong characters, a tight plot and an inside view of Japan and its culture.”
“Sly, sexy and deftly done.
THE SALARYMAN’S WIFE
is one to bring home.”
Page Turner of the Week on
THE SALARYMAN’S WIFE
Original copyright by Sujata Massey, November 2014, and the Ikat Press. Designed and produced by Interbridge.com. Cover art by Deranged Doctor Design. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and dialogue are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The Salaryman’s Wife
The Flower Master
The Floating Girl
The Bride’s Kimono
The Samurai’s Daughter
The Pearl Diver
The Typhoon Lover
Girl In A Box
The Convenience Boy And Other Stories Of Japan
The Kizuna Coast
The Sleeping Dictionary
The Ayah’s Tale
In 2008, I thought that my Rei Shimura books were done. Six years later, though, I’m releasing a new book in the series. You’re still here, willing to read? Thanks, and you deserve the backstory.
, the tenth Rei mystery, came out in 2008 under a series of challenging circumstances, including a request to considerably cut its length. After working through a severe edit, I wasn’t sure I had the energy to keep writing Rei books—plus I was spending more time in India than in Japan and had a lot of ideas in that direction. Therefore, I constructed
ending to tie up loose ends and address readers’ hopes for Rei’s love life. As far as I was concerned, the girl could hold hands and drink mai tais in the Hawaiian sunset for a while.
Rei and I embarked on an amicable separation. During the time that she was renovating an early twentieth-century cottage in Hawaii, I was taking a paintbrush to a 1913 house in Minnesota, and working the rest of the time on
The Sleeping Dictionary
, my first historical novel set in late British Raj India. It felt fresh and challenging to create a cast of new characters and also to build their storyline around real historical events in India.
Then came a very terrible Friday. It was March 11, 2011, and while driving through snow, I heard the radio report about a massive earthquake on Japan’s main island, Honshu. By the time I reached a TV, the tsunami had already struck.
Once again, I became immersed in Japan—but in a way I never had before. The bright lights, luxuries, fast trains, and sweet cartoon images were replaced by hardship, power outages, meltdown, and the loss of almost twenty thousand people. It was the biggest horror the country had faced since World War II.
Like many around the world, I was filled with a desire to do something. For a while there were no flights into Japan for would-be volunteers. All we could do was give money and prayers. I imagined how frustrated Rei Shimura would feel, trapped on her Hawaiian island. And I knew she’d find a way around the barriers and get into Japan and the tsunami-ravaged Tohoku coast.
The first draft of this novel,
The Kizuna Coast
, took about six months to write: a speed record for me. But then I put it aside for a few years to deal with editing and launching
The Sleeping Dictionary
as well as moving from Minneapolis back to Baltimore. Therefore, I didn’t return to seriously working on the book until 2014.
Because of the real framework of the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, this book could probably classify as a modern historical novel within the Rei mystery series. Yes, there’s a crime to solve, a love story, and the typical cast of characters… but it’s different.
The Kizuna Coast
is also available as a trade paperback. An audiobook and limited edition signed hardcover will be published soon. I love to hear from readers, so you could either leave a review at
contact me directly
with any queries.
Rei Shimura—Raised in California and trained in Japan, a world-class young woman who deals in antiques and personal intrigue
Michael Hendricks—Rei’s new husband, a former spy who now works for an American think tank on Pacific Rim issues
Yoshitsune Shimura—Rei’s great-great-uncle Yosh, whose son Edwin and daughter-in-law Margaret are Rei’s relatives living in Hawaii
Yasushi Ishida—Tokyo antiques dealer who is Rei’s most important mentor
Hachiko—Mr. Ishida’s beagle-Akita mix dog
Richard Randall—Rei’s beloved friend and former roommate who still lives in Tokyo with his boyfriend, Enrique
Norie Shimura—Rei’s aunt who lives in Yokohama, married to Hiroshi Shimura. Their children are Dr. Tom (Tsutomu) Shimura, an emergency-room doctor in Tokyo, and Chika Shimura, an executive trainee in Osaka
Mr. Okada—small businessman who owns a
cracker-roasting shop and is a neighbor to Mr. Ishida
Dr. Kubo—veterinarian at Animal House clinic in Tokyo
Mr. Yano—volunteer director of Helping Hands organization
Mayumi Kimura—Mr. Ishida’s eighteen-year-old assistant at the antiques shop and a lacquer artist. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Kimura, are lacquer artists.
Mrs. Endo—senior-citizen volunteer
Akira Rikyo—Mayumi’s high-school sweetheart. His father, Mr. Rikyo, is a carpenter, and his mother, Mrs. Rikyo, is a textile artist. His sister is Hanako, and his nieces are Noriko and Sachiko
Mayor Kazuo Hamasaki—mayor of Sugihama
Mr. Morioka—owner of Takara Auction House in Sugihama
Michiko Tanaka—a nurse who is a co-worker of Tom Shimura and volunteers with Helping Hands
Nobuko—a professional cook volunteering with Helping Hands
Sgt. Lee Simonson—medical corpsman in the US Army
Private McDonald—a driver for the US Army
Dr. Nishi—a Japanese physician who is also a colonel in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF)
Miki Haneda—a seven-year-old Sugihama girl with mother named Sadako
Constable Ota—Sugihama police officer
Lieutenant-Colonel Uchida—a JMSDF officer
Petty Officer Oshima—a dog handler in the JMSDF
Glock—female artist and a roommate of Mayumi, along with another young woman artist, Eri
Yoshiko—beautician who works with Richard Randall at Blond Apparition
Mr. Koji—construction site boss
Queen Cake—bar manager in Tokyo
Masa—a teenaged boy from Sugihama
Mr. Fujita—a lawyer
Sgt. Kodama—Tohoku Prefecture police sergeant
Suffixes commonly follow surnames—or even first names—to show respect or kinship. The suffix “san” is the most commonly used one; it means Mr., Mrs., or Miss. “Kun” is the equivalent of “guy” and is typically used by young men and boys toward younger males, but now is sometimes used by young women for good friends of both genders. “Chan” means little one, and is used for children of both genders and young women; and sometimes when addressing parents or grandparents.
f you’ve been through an earthquake, you remember.
You recall where you were and exactly what you were doing; what you had for breakfast and the plan for the day’s activities. What’s harder is explaining the panic that rolled through you when the ground wouldn’t stop shaking. The moment you learned that everything you trusted to be safe and solid, was not.
I’ve weathered a variety of earthquakes, large and small, in California and Japan. But the earthquake that still figures in my dreams is the big one: the Great Eastern Kanto Earthquake of 2011. Even though I wasn’t even there when the earth buckled.
I was perched midway in the Pacific, playing mah-jongg, a thousand-year-old Asian game of tiles that moves fast and furious. My Hawaiian friends play with a set dating from the 1920s, so the tiles are probably ivory or bone. This gives me the creeps, although the set’s owner, Pak Chang, claims that such old tiles carried great
But that disagreement is just the start. Pak, my great-uncle Yosh, and their cohort, my neighbor Lilia DeCruz, continually fuss about the right rules to follow: American, Japanese, or British. As a result, almost everything goes—including controversial “dirty” hands using tile pairs from more than one suit.
The night of the disaster, I was involved in a different kind of dirty mah-jongg—because Michael Hendricks, my brand-new husband, was at the table. This kind of mah-jongg meant a bare toe tracing its way up my calf, or a whispered code about something happening later on. Michael could make me blush with just three or four words uttered at an extremely low decibel level. I’d become flustered to the point that my attention disintegrated to Michael’s level, and then both of us would lose.
Michael and I had failed so many times that it was becoming legend in the community. But what happened after those losses was the best part of mah-jongg night.
“I don’t care what the governor says about feeling sorry for people, it’s not right for people to live on the beach. Looks like a tent city,” Uncle Yosh grumbled. He was talking about the stretch of beach that had become an encampment of homes for locals who couldn’t afford Oahu housing.
“Then where you gonna put them? Nobody’s got acres of land lying around for your great-niece to build them houses. Unless she knows something we don’t.” Lilia looked significantly at me.
Underneath the table, I flicked Michael’s stealthy hand off my thigh so I could concentrate when answering.
“I wish there were a secret land parcel I could tell you about.” Because of my work, I was considered a possessor of important information. About six months earlier, I’d put my antiques work on hold to help with the restoration of Ewa Landing, sixty small cottages that had been built in the early twentieth century for sugar-plantation workers. Abandoned when the plantation closed in the 1970s, these cottages were where Lilia, Pak, and Michael and I lived.
Michael winked at me. His blue eyes stood out against his sailor’s tan, which had deepened since moving to Hawaii.
Great-Uncle Yosh shot the two of us a disapproving glare. “Not many men got the nerve to sleep in a house their wife paid for.”
Michael laughed as if my uncle had made some kind of fabulous joke. But I was slightly embarrassed. Not because it was wrong that I’d been the one offered the cottage—but because white guys on this majority-Asian island were ribbed just a little bit harder than anyone else.
“It’s modern times, Uncle Yosh,” I chided him in a mild voice, just as Carly, Aunty Lilia’s daughter, hurried up with a kid attached to each hand.
“Hey! When can we go out in the canoe again?” demanded Kai, the older boy.
“Nobody wants to canoe now! You folks hear what’s happening?” Carly’s voice was loud and urgent.
“Hold on, Carly,” Aunty Lilia began.
“Go look at CNN!” Carly shouted. “An earthquake just happened in Japan, and the big wave’s gonna roll over them, what you call it, cyclone or soonamee—”
“Tsunami,” I corrected, feeling a chill steal over me, despite the fact it was eighty-two degrees.
Michael was already scrambling to get his cell phone out of the pocket of his cargo shorts. He shook his head as he looked at the screen. “Hank’s called three times. Damn it, I never felt any vibration.”
I’d made Michael silence his phone because I was tired of frequent, nonessential interruptions from his boss. Hank was a former navy captain working through the sorrow of not making admiral by acting like one in his new civilian job. As Michael sprinted off, phone at his ear, I felt guilty. Michael worked for a group that dealt with threats to the Asia-Pacific region. He was supposed to know about crises before they aired on CNN.
“I’m sorry to break up the game like this. But if Michael’s on duty, I want to make sure he’s got what he needs for a long night,” I explained as I gathered up our tiles to turn in.
“Don’t be silly,” Lilia chided. “It’s terrible about Japan. So many here came from there. Nobody got time to play mah-jongg after hearing such news.”
“You woulda lost anyway, Rei,” Uncle Yosh said, looking at the tiles I turned in. “Girl, I can’t believe all your bad luck.”
reasons, I’d painted the door to our cottage a perfect Chinese crimson. The positive, powerful color was supposed to shield us from misfortune. Michael had been so hasty that he’d left this door ajar; I closed it behind me and took a few deep breaths before moving on.
I really hoped that Carly’s reaction was overkill. Japan had planned carefully for earthquakes and tsunamis; state-of-the-art construction and evacuation routes would ensure optimum safety. But I had relatives and friends in Japan, where I’d lived about four years. This made the disaster a personal one.
Trying to calm myself, I slipped out of my sandals and walked barefoot through the dining room. The small room was furnished with just a few pieces: a persimmon-wood Japanese
chest, and a low paulownia tea table flanked by two indigo cushions. This was where I planned to serve our supper of grilled tuna, asparagus, and Japanese rice flavored with
In the back of the house, near the kitchen and bathroom, was the original bedroom that we’d converted into our study. The small room held an old mission-style desk from Michael’s former apartment, his desktop computer, and a rattan daybed I’d covered with vintage Japanese quilts. This served our few guests and was a favorite lounging place near our only television.
Michael was in the study on his phone call, keeping his eyes on the wall-mounted flat screen. CNN showed an aerial view of the Pacific Ocean. Although the sound was muted, a scrolling newsfeed confirmed Carly’s report.
Major Earthquake Hits Northeast Japan to be followed by tsunami. Thousands feared injured. Richter scale 9.0.
And then, the message repeated.
The Richter scale reading was probably off, because I’d never heard of such a powerful earthquake. I raised the volume to low, so I’d get more details without disturbing Michael’s call.
An American newscaster was reporting that the earth’s plates had shifted under the Pacific about two hundred miles from the city of Sendai. The newscaster was chattering about the coast’s many seawalls and sirens going off everywhere and people evacuating in an orderly fashion.
As he spoke, the picture shifted from the ocean to traffic-clogged roads and collapsed buildings of a town identified as Sugihama. Its name was familiar; I’d probably been through the area antiquing. With anxiety, I watched people hurry up steep outdoor tsunami evacuation stairs, past gawkers stopped along their route with cameras and phones pointed toward the ocean. I wanted to yell at them that this was not a YouTube moment, and they were slowing escape for others. But who would hear?
Michael finished his call and came to sit with me on the daybed. “It’s Friday afternoon,” he said in a low voice. “Plenty of fishermen are out on the water.”
And everyone else was at work or in school, or out shopping or inside their homes. Sure, they’d hear the sirens, but not everybody had a car they could speed away in, or legs strong enough to run.
Michael’s eyes were fixed on a foamy white line growing across the dark-blue ocean. “Hank says it’s a couple of minutes away from hitting land.”
“It’s long, but doesn’t look that high.” After speaking I realized the overhead camera couldn’t reveal the wave’s height. I had no way to judge, until the event itself.
“I don’t think there are any seawalls taller than fifteen feet,” Michael said, as if he were thinking along the same lines. “Let’s hope that’s high enough for this little town. Oh, no, hold on. There it goes!”
The line finally turned into a real wave that rushed smoothly over a seawall. The powerful, monstrous surge was lifting up all kinds of things—houses, street lamps, buses—before sucking them under. More water kept pushing from behind, and soon the entire small-town landscape was no longer there.
All of it, gone.
I grabbed Michael and buried my face in his chest. I felt his heart beating rapidly against my wet cheek.
“It’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen.” Michael breathed deeply. “I’m really sorry, but I can’t stick around. Hank’s informed me that a complementary tsunami wave is headed for Hawaii.”
“What the hell is that?”
“The rebound of the energy generated by the wave that hit Tohoku. Sirens will go off all over Honolulu and coastal towns in a couple of hours, and if people in this development want to avoid a massive traffic jam they should gather their valuable papers now and evacuate.”
I stared at him, feeling this news was too much to process. “Will you tell them?”
“I’ve got to get to the Tsunami Warning Center, and I suppose I’ll get my orders from Hank over there. You can spread the news at Ewa Landing.”
My own cell phone rang, and I snatched it up. “Hello?”
“Rei-chan, did you hear?” All the way from San Francisco, my father’s voice crackled with worry.
“Yes, Dad. Michael’s here, too. I’m putting your call on speakerphone so we can all hear each other.”
“Hi, Toshiro.” Michael’s voice was warm. “You must be worried for your brother’s family.”
“Indeed I am. I called his house and had no answer, even though it’s a time that Norie should be home,” my father said. “And I never heard of an earthquake measuring 9.0, have you? We’ve been told to stay away from the beaches because there will be a reciprocal wave coming from the earthquake’s epicenter.”
“I hear you. In fact, I’m just getting ready to help my office deal with our own potential tsunami.” As he spoke, Michael was putting all kinds of communications gear into his briefcase.
“Please stay overnight at Honokai Hale. That is truly high ground.” My father was speaking of the cliffside home belonging to Uncle Yosh, his son Edwin, and daughter-in-law Margaret.
“Don’t worry, Dad. I’ll drive over with Uncle Yosh. He came to our neighborhood this evening to play mah-jongg, so it’ll be very easy to get going.”
“Good. I won’t have to worry about any of you, then.”
Two heavy knocks thudded on the front door.
“That may be him now. Michael, can you get the door?” I asked, but my husband had already vacated the room, leaving nothing but flip-flop sandals behind.