THE DEATH CEREMONY by James Melville


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Kobe's Supt. Tetsuo Otani (Death of a Daimyo, The Ninth Netsuke, etc.) is in Kyoto to attend a super-deluxe tea ceremony--when, during the ritual, the Grand Master of the tea ceremony is shot dead by a hidden sniper. But: was the vital, 60-ish Grand Master (a national cultural celebrity) really the intended victim? Or was the sniper actually shooting at the British Ambassador, an honored tea-ceremony guest seated beside the Master? Supt. Otani, in charge of the ensuing investigation, at first favors the latter theory--especially since the Ambassador has received death-threat letters from the IRA. Furthermore, a young Irishman just happens to be among the students at the tea-ceremony school! (By further, unconvincing coincidence, the Irishman is the ex-lover of the Otanis' blithely inconsiderate British houseguest.) Eventually, however, to no reader-surprise, Otani decides that the Grand Master was murdered very much on purpose--via a gnarled conspiracy involving bygone sexual secrets, nasty domestic blackmail, and a Mishima-like psycho. As usual, Melville offers intriguing details of contemporary Japanese life-style, along with drily amusing glimpses of Otani's backup team: aging playboy Inspector Kimura; canny old Inspector Noguchi; and wise wife Hanae. This time, however, despite diverting bits of police-politics and cross-cultural comedy, the overall effect--thanks largely to the implausible, raggedly paced plotting--is contrived and disappointing.

Pub Date: Dec. 31st, 1985
Publisher: St. Martin's