The Kimono Tattoo by Rebecca Copeland, Narrated by Theresa Bakken
An intriguing and solid mystery rich with culture and a sense of place.
Ruth Bennett is flattered and surprised when the assistant to a well-known Japanese novelist approaches her to do the English translation of his latest novel. She's pleased because she's been mired in months of tedious and mundane translation work, and she yearns to do something more interesting and substantial. However, she's also very surprised because the author was declared dead years ago! That surprise turns to shock when the dark events of the novel eerily echo those happening in real life – events involving the remaining members of the author's estranged family in Kyoto.
The Kimono Tattoo was an excellent puzzler, rich with the sense of Japanese culture and the moody, atmospheric setting of Kyoto. I was fascinated by the discussion of kimonos integral to the plot.
Ruth Bennett is a likable protagonist. The author developed an intriguing backstory for her, and I was immediately drawn to her. She melded so well into her life in Japan – more comfortable in Japan than in the U.S. I liked how Ruth pointed out the differences in customs and personal interactions between her native country and Japan.
She has a variety of friends, acquaintances, and coworkers who are introduced and pulled into her search for answers. I loved how they came from such different areas of Kyoto life, but all formed a wonderful group as the story progressed.
The story is not all peace and beauty and kimonos, though. The Kimono Tattoo is a pretty dark murder mystery, and the author shows what's lurking in the shadow. Some of the findings are grim and deal with tough subjects. Ruth gets in some situations that put me on the edge of my seat.
I listened to the audiobook edition of the book and enjoyed the narrator's performance immensely. Theresa Bakken's pace, pronunciation, and inflections were just right, and her variations in voice to represent different characters were subtle yet very effective. I found myself looking for errands to run (to listen in the car) despite the price of gas at the moment.
I recommend THE KIMONO TATTOO to readers who would enjoy a good, solid, exciting mystery set in modern-day Japan.
I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the publisher through NetGalley.