Monday, June 08, 2009

Turning Japanese

Recently, I also caught up with a Sano Ichiro mystery I had missed, and a neat little book on the Japanese bath.

My attraction to mysteries seems to include a few necessary elements. I like a lengthy series of books, the better to collect and re-read, and I prefer settings which have an element of unfamiliarity - historical mysteries, psychiatric evaluations, that sort of thing. Add to this my quirky fetish for things Japanese, and bingo! A detective operating in the 17th Century Shogun's court, with his wife as an occasional aid and occasional plot device. I do not grab them reflexively as I do with other novels; they are fast reads which seem to find their way into my briefcase while I am in airports, mostly. This is not a series to be read for the rich depth of the plots or settings. But they are fun, and I have a library card, so The Assassin's Touchwound up in my stack of books to be read. It is about the same as the other books in the series and I tore through it in a day.

I actually enjoyed the non fiction book, Getting Wetmore than the mystery. Our friend Tom brought it on his last visit - more, I suspect, because of our repeat visits to the local Korean bath house, Spa Castle. But I liked the breezy, conversational writing of Eric Talmadge, a Tokyo based editor for the Associated Press. I also appreciated the pictures included. Sometimes, no matter how well something is described, only a picture will make it clear for me. Seeing a classic style vs. modern style home bath, a rustic spring in the mountains, a public bathhouse, a sort of bathhouse amusement park and a Soapland room beats reading the descriptions by a long shot.

It's not a scholarly work, and it sure isn't for anyone who actually has real life experience in Japan, but I will keep this one on my reference shelf.

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