I’ve been a very slow reader recently, and just haven’t been finding the time to pick up a book (despite being surrounded by them!). However, I simply had to make time to read the brand-new book by fellow blogger Fran Pickering – The Cherry Blossom Murder. I’ve been a keen reader of Fran’s blog Sequins and Cherry Blossom for a long time now, so I was excited to see what kind of novel she would bring to the table.
The Cherry Blossom Murder is ‘a murder mystery set against the background of Japan’s spectacular all-female Takarazuka Revue, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014’, says the back of the book. I’m not much of a murder mystery fan, and knew hardly anything about Takarazuka, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect or if I would enjoy the novel.
I’ll start by explaining Takarazuka as best I can for those who don’t know. Takarazuka Revue (Takarazuka Kagekidan / 宝塚歌劇団) is a Japanese all-female musical theatre troupe based in Takarazuka (宝塚) in Osaka. The productions, from what I can gather, are rather lavish and the costumes are spectacular. Takarazuka fans are dedicated to their favourite performers and, as it happens, Fran Pickering and her leading lady Josie Clark in The Cherry Blossom Murder are members of the fan club.
(Image source: Takarazuka Review official website)
The Cherry Blossom Murder is about Josie Clark, a British woman living and working in Tokyo. One day, on one of her outings to Osaka with her friend Keiko to see the Takarazuka Revue, everything turns a little bit strange when she finds a body underneath the cherry blossom on the famous Flower Path. The murderer seems to have got away with their crime, and the authorities seem more interested in making the problem go away than finding the killer, but Josie can’t let it rest. She begins to question everyone around her, desperately seeking answers and hoping to find the murderer.
(Image source: Fran Pickering)
I enjoyed The Cherry Blossom Murder, and it was nice to immerse myself in a part of Japanese culture I know very little about. I found the story a little hard to get into – perhaps because the murder happened quite early on and I didn’t really know the characters well enough yet – but once the story got going I was just as interested in finding out who the murderer was as Josie was! There were some nice little touches throughout the story which showed just how well Fran knows Japan. The detailed descriptions of certain streets and restaurants made me really believe I was there, and yet this was a very different kind of book to the usual sorts of novels written by Westerners who have lived in Japan.
I’d recommend The Cherry Blossom Murder to anyone who likes murder mysteries, but also to anyone with a curiosity for Japanese culture and a desire to get a bit further under the surface. And, if you like The Cherry Blossom Murder, watch out for the next book in the Josie Clark series due out in 2015 – The Haiku Murder. Now that sounds like a book I’ll enjoy!