Travel to the Indian subcontinent with a new collection of Sujata Massey’s suspenseful historical fiction. This book includes four works described below:
OUTNUMBERED AT OXFORD. When Perveen Mistry leaves Bombay to study law at St. Hilda’s College in 1919 Oxford, England, she hopes to escape her troubled past and become a pioneering woman lawyer. Then an elderly don tasks her with locating an Indian servant who may have stolen an invaluable mathematics proof. Perveen is caught in a case that threatens her ladylike reputation—and her life.
THE AYAH’S TALE. Menakshi Dutt, a teenaged nanny in 1920s Bengal, is a beloved caregiver of three lonely British children, but suffers from the cruelty of their bored mother. Will Menakshi ever fulfill her own dreams without betraying the children?
INDIA GRAY. Kamala Lewes, a recently-married Bengali woman, travels to Assam during World War II to volunteer at a military hospital. There she discovers some patients with ties to the Indian independence movement. How far can she go to help them without betraying her British husband and the Allies?
BITTER TEA. Shazia is fifteen and trapped in a remote village in Pakistan overtaken by religious fundamentalists. Her school has been closed, and women have lost freedom of movement. But when Shania learns a friend faces danger from the invaders, she decides to act.
Four unforgettable heroines in one book rich with history, culture and intrigue.
The Ayah’s Tale (2013)
A 40,000-word novella
“Massey deftly plays with several strong threads in the story, each of which gives a certain heft… She explores the relationship between parents and children, Indians and the British, upper and lower classes, home and homelessness, India and abroad, stories and reality. Read it to find out which one speaks to you the most.”
South of the Border, West of the Sun blog
In 1952, Menakshi walks into a Penang library during the rainy season. She discovers a book written by Julian Winslett, a British war hero and writer, who was a young boy she cared for while working as a 16-year-old nanny in Bengal. His book is about those old days, and features the two of them as named characters.
For the rulers of India, the 1920s British Raj was a glorious period; but for Menakshi, it’s a time she’d rather forget. She’d pushed away all her old feelings for Julian… but now they’re back.
As Menakshi reads Julian’s book, she returns to a vanished world where luxury and deprivation co-exist in the same grand bungalow—and romance breaks all rules in the hills of Darjeeling and on the Bengal-Nagpur Railway. Menakshi’s own recollections add suspense as his family heads toward rupture, and she is torn between loyalty toward the children and her own secret dreams.
The Sleeping Dictionary (2013)
Published in India as The City of Palaces (2014)
See photos from Old Calcutta, and read an excerpt from the book
“An utterly engrossing tale of love, espionage, betrayal and survival… historical fiction at its best, accessible to all audiences.”
In 1930, a great ocean wave blots out a Bengali village, leaving only one survivor, a young girl. As a maidservant in a British boarding school, Pom is renamed Sarah and discovers her gift for languages. Her private dreams almost die when she arrives in Kharagpur and is recruited into a secretive, decadent world. Eventually, she lands in Calcutta, renames herself Kamala, and creates a new life rich in books and friends. But although success and even love seem within reach, she remains trapped by what she is . . . and is not. As India struggles to throw off imperial rule, Kamala uses her hard-won skills—for secrecy, languages, and reading the unspoken gestures of those around her—to fight for her country’s freedom and her own happiness.
The Rei Shimura series, in chronological order:
“Sly, sexy and deftly done, Wife is one to bring home.”
Meet Rei Shimura, an underpaid English teacher in Tokyo who wishes she was doing something better with her life. Her chance comes unexpectedly, when she goes on a New Year’s vacation to the Japanese Alps and finds the body of a Japanese executive’s wife in the snow. Who killed Setsuko Nakamura, and why is Hugh Glendinning, the handsome Scottish lawyer who works with Setsuko’s husband leaning so hard on Rei for help? It’s great to start off with the first book in a series, and this book is especially rich in details of Japanese urban life.
“Simply splendid… Massey is a gifted storyteller who delivers strong characters, a tight plot and an inside view of Japan and its culture.”
Rei Shimura has started a fledgling business as an antiques buyer, but her assignment to buy an antique tansu chest for an aristocratic Japanese client turns to trouble when the crook who sells her a fake turns up dead. A woman judo champion, Hugh’s bad little brother, illegal immigrants and a charismatic Zen Buddhist priest cause complications as Rei unravels the mystery. Good read for those interested in Japanese antiques and Zen.
“The writing is as serene and graceful as the flower arranging… a rich, robust read.”
Aunt Norie has decided that her niece Rei needs to be skilled at a cultural art like flower arranging if she’s ever going to get married. But Rei’s lessons at the Kayama School of Ikebana start off badly because of a snippy head teacher who winds up with her own throat snipped—and the evidence unfortunately pointing toward Aunt Norie. Rei solves the riddle of flower arranger’s death, while trying to decide how to handle the attentions of the handsome scion of the flower arranging family. This book is the one I recommend to the younger and older reader, meaning, not as X-rated as some of the others.
“Another must-read from an author who has honed the skill of captivating and educating her readers at the same time.”
Rei’s got a new gig writing about arts and antiques for an English language monthly, The Gaijin Times. Her assignment to interview a fascinating young animation artist becomes problematic when a cross-dressing fan dies. Rei goes deep into the world of Tokyo host bars, and student clubs to learn the truth behind the art, and the death, and continues her relationship with a hot Japanese boyfriend. A trip into modern youth culture, a little on the wild side.
“Absolutely top-notch… [Masssey] tells a compelling story, with lots of suspense and particularly well drawn characters.”
I Love A Mystery
An unexpected invitation to bring priceless antique kimono to a top museum in Washington DC has Rei Shimura so excited that it’s hard not to talk about it with the young Japanese shopaholic who’s her seatmate on the plane. Yet in DC, when the young woman vanishes along with the kimono, Rei realizes she’s got serious trouble… which intensifies when ex-boyfriend Hugh comes back into the picture. One of the most romantic books in the series.
“Massey deftly weaves fascinating historical and cultural detail into a suspenseful plot.”
In San Francisco for the holidays, Rei is trying to document her own family’s history and enjoy a visit with Hugh, who’s in town for business. But she’s devastated when Hugh’s client, a former comfort woman from the Philippines who was abused by the Japanese military during World War II, is murdered. The answer to who wants to silence the voices of those he and Rei visited lies back in Tokyo, and leads Rei to unsettling revelations about her great-grandfather’s political ideology. The most politically-charged book in the series so far.
“Adept at crafting dead-on dialogue and juggling serious issues with humor, Massey has produced another triumph.”
Rei’s back in Washington, working on the decoration of a fabulous new Japanese fusion restaurant. But the restaurant’s open goes badly when Rei’s uberglam American cousin, Kendall, is kidnapped. The havoc continues, and Rei finds herself investigating the disappearance of a Japanese war bride thirty years earlier. Strong erotic content but also, a poignant look at wartime marriage, and what it means to be a mother.
“Rei is a fascinating character: bold, unique, spirited and intelligent… Massey makes good use of the clash between American and Japanese cultures as a backdrop for an enjoyable story.”
Rei, who’s been banned from entering Japan, finds a seemingly miraculous way back into the country. The only catch is she’s working undercover to trace a missing antiquity looted from Iraq, and the guy suspected of owning the contraband is her ex-lover Takeo. Rei’s journey throughout Tokyo and rural Kyushu is full of surprises about historic ceramics—and herself. This book has the showdown between Hugh and Takeo that you may have been anticipating.
“Massey weaves this background into an exciting story that is strong on realistic characters… [she] continues a mini-course in Japanese culture and tradition.”
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Rei’s done so well on her last assignment the US government has another job for her, this time with very good pay and serious wardrobe perks. Rei is working as a salesgirl at a major Japanese department store, secretly planting bugs to record information about the chain’s financial situation. Rei’s terrified of being unmasked, and also by her growing feelings toward her spy-boss. Espionage, fashion and romance galore in this upbeat continuation of the series.
“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.”
Rei is shocked that her father’s had a hemorrhagic stroke. She decides to take a long leave from her espionage activities to help him recover. A surprise invitation from long-lost relatives in Hawaii sends the pair from to Oahu, along with Uncle Hiroshi and Cousin Tom. But the celebration of the 88th birthday of Rei’s great-uncle is complicated by the relatives’ demand that the Shimuras help them regain choice Hawaiian real estate lost during the war years when the Great Uncle was interned on the mainland. An arson fire that may be a cover-up for murder, plus a long visit from Michael Hendricks, followed by the reappearance of Hugh, add to Rei’s challenges.
When a devastating earthquake rocks Japan’s northeast coast, a tsunami follows and Rei Shimura is swept into her most rugged adventure yet. The mystery begins with an SOS from Rei’s friend, the antiques dealer Mr. Ishida, trapped among thousands of displaced and dead on the Tohoku coast. Rei rushes to Tokyo, where she discovers Ishida Antiques may have been burglarized. Rei takes Mr. Ishida’s abandoned dog, Hachiko, on a volunteer bus to the ravaged town of Sugihama. But Mr. Ishida’s got more work for her, since he lost contact with his antiques apprentice Mayumi and is frantic with worry. He won’t leave Sugihama without knowing the fate of the troubled 19-year-old girl from a famous lacquer-making family.