Our first National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) book review is the recently-published ‘The Haiku Murder’ by fellow Japan blogger Fran Pickering! If a murder mystery set in Japan sounds like your kind of thing, read on…
‘The Haiku Murder’ is the second book in the Josie Clark in Japan series, which follows the life of Josie, a British expat who works for a big financial company in Tokyo and has an unfortunate habit of finding dead bodies. In this story, Josie tags along on a haiku-writing trip in Matsuyama organised by her company and their new business partner but things go tragically wrong when a leading charismatic businessman falls from the top of Matsuyama castle… or was he pushed? *dun dun dunnn* Josie certainly thinks so and, as she searches for the victim’s missing bag, she realises that everyone on the trip has a secret to hide.
Having read both of the Josie Clark books, I personally felt there was a notable improvement in ‘The Haiku Murder’. I certainly enjoyed the prequel ‘The Cherry Blossom Murder’, as you can see from my review here, although the sequel is more developed and complex in some ways. The plot itself has a lot of layers and I found myself suspecting someone new by the end of every chapter and, in the end, I was still surprised at the dramatic finale. There is a good range of characters; from the spoiled daughter to the hard-faced businessman to the widow missing the life she left behind, and it’s easy to identify with Josie, the expat who is still learning about the ins and outs of Japanese living.
While the murder mystery itself was the main draw of ‘The Haiku Murder’ for me (being a die-hard fan of series such as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ books and the ‘Ace Attorney’ video games), Josie’s relationship with her very-long-distance boyfriend in Australia also adds a slightly more familiar aspect to the story. After all, how many British expats stumble across a dead body more than once? Hopefully not that many. Poor Josie has to balance a Christmas visit from Dave, who clearly has the patience of a saint, with investigating a murder. I can imagine anyone who has had an overseas relationship can sympathise with this, and it makes this story more than a simple murder mystery.
There is clearly an autobiographical element in ‘The Haiku Murder’, as there is in the whole Josie Clark series, as the attention to detail and observations of the smallest details of life in Tokyo, from the size of the bedroom to the flowers on a cafe table, could only have been captured so well by someone who has spent a lot of time in Japan. Reading this book made me look even more forward to going back to Japan next year and, yes, I have made a note of the places Josie frequents.
So, have a gander around Fran’s website to find out more about the series and the author herself. There will also be an interview with the lovely lady herself on the blog later this week, so be sure to check back!
You can read the first chapter of ‘The Haiku Murder’ on Fran’s website here and buy the book on Amazon here. I also recommend buying ‘The Cherry Blossom Murder’to set yourself up nicely for some Christmas reading.