Massey, Sujata 1964-
MASSEY, Sujata 1964-
PERSONAL: Born 1964, in Sussex, England; married Tony Massey (a U.S. Navy medical officer); children: Pia. Education: Johns Hopkins University, graduated 1986.
ADDRESSES: Home—Baltimore, MD. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins, 10 East 53rd Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022. E-mail—sujata&atdot; or ix.netcom.com.
CAREER: Writer. Baltimore Evening Sun, journalist; freelance writer, 1997—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Malice Domestic unpublished writers grant, 1996, and Agatha Award for Best First Novel, 1998, both for The Salaryman's Wife.
The Salaryman's Wife, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Zen Attitude, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
The Flower Master, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
The Floating Girl, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
The Bride's Kimono, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
The Samurai's Daughter, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Sujata Massey was born in Sussex, England in 1964, the daughter of a father from India and a mother from Germany. When she was five years old, her parents immigrated to the United States. Massey grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Berkeley, California, and St. Paul, Minnesota, but never became totally Americanized because her family often returned to England; she remains a citizen of the United Kingdom, but is a legal resident of the United States.
Massey graduated from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1986, and worked as a journalist for the Baltimore Evening Sun newspaper. Eventually she met Tony Massey, a U.S. Navy medical officer, and they eventually married. Tony Massey was eventually posted to Japan, and they moved there in 1991, returning to the United States in 1993.
While in Japan, Massey became fascinated with Japanese culture and history. She united this interest with her love of mystery novels to write mysteries with Japanese characters. For her first novel, she won a grant from Malice Domestic, a mystery writers' organization, to complete the work, and soon after signed a contract with HarperCollins to write more novels. Both The Salaryman's Wife and Zen Attitude star sleuth Rei Shimura; they did so well that Massey followed them with more "Rei Shimura" mysteries.
Shimura, like Massey, is a multicultural woman; born in California to a Japanese father and an American mother, she speaks Japanese well and can almost pass for Japanese when she needs to. At her Web site, Massey noted, "The most important similarity I share with my sleuth is confusion over cultural identity." Rei is torn between her two cultures, enjoying Japanese art and aesthetics, but also enjoying the freedom she has as an American woman.
In The Flower Master, Rei is living in Tokyo, working as an antiques dealer. When her aunt, who is a master of traditional Japanese flower arranging, or ikebana, tells her she should enroll in a flower-arranging class, Rei does so, and finds that the battles over aesthetics at the school soon escalate into violence. A master teacher is stabbed to death with gardening shears, and Rei's aunt is suspected of the murder. Rei must clear her name, and find the real murderer. In the New York Times Book Review Marilyn Stasio wrote that Massey carefully observes Japanese customs, and that she brings a "fresh perspective" to her depiction of Japanese culture. In the Washington Post Book World, Paul Skenazy commented that Massey "provides us with a wonderfully detailed tour of Japan, and of ikebana."
In 2000 Massey and Tony adopted a daughter, Pia, who was born in South India. Massey stayed in India with Pia from December, 1998, through February, 1999. Although she was under contract at the time to complete her novel The Floating Girl, she was unable to travel with a laptop computer because she had too much baby equipment. She took discs with her to India and worked on computers whenever she could find one available.
While in India, a computer virus erased half of the novel she was working on, but she had printed out much of her material. When she returned to Baltimore with Pia, Tony typed all of these pages into their home computer, and it took Massey five more months to complete the novel. She wrote in her Web page, "Now I'm happy to report having a baby has not slowed me down too much as a writer." She writes during her daughter's naps, and hires a babysitter occasionally when she needs more time.
The Floating Girl explores the Japanese love of cartoon characters. Rei finds a comic that illustrates a murder, and the murder later happens. Rei must find the comic's artist, as well as the murderer. In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer praised Massey for depicting a part of Tokyo that tourists never see, and called the book an "accomplished murder mystery."
In The Bride's Kimono Shimura must transport a valuable kimono to a museum exhibit in Washington, D.C. En route, she meets a Japanese office worker who is heading to a mall to shop for her wedding. This woman disappears in the mall, and Rei must investigate her murder. The victim is initially identified as Rei, but when Shimura is found alive, she runs into further trouble when the police accuse her of running a prostitution ring. Romantic entanglements, as well as family issues, complicate the story. In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer praised Massey's use of romantic suspense as well as her detailed understanding of Japanese and American culture. In the Washington Post Book World, Patrick Anderson wrote that Shimura, "sexy, breezy, and smart, holds our interest even as the novel veers off in unexpected directions."
Massey writes at her home in Baltimore, but travels to Japan for about a month each year to check on her settings and soak up Japanese culture. She wrote on her Web site, "I always return to Baltimore five pounds lighter and lugging a suitcase jammed with antique textiles, photographs of my travels, and notes for the next book." She also gave advice to aspiring writers, "I rewrote my first book more than fifty times before submitting it to an agent. There is something to be said for not proceeding until you are as polished as you can be."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1999, review of The Flower Master, p. 1482; May 1, 2000, Jenny McLarin, review of The Floating Girl, p. 1622; May 1, 2001, Merle Jacob, review of The Flower Master, p. 1607; August, 2001, Jenny McLarin, review of The Bride's Kimono, p. 2098; February 15, 2003, Jenny McLarin, review of The Samurai's Daughter, p. 1055.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2001, review of The Bride's Kimono, p. 1071; January 15, 2003, review of The Samurai's Daughter, p. 114.
Library Journal, April 15, 1999, Francine Fialkoff, review of The Flower Master, p. 149; April 1, 2000, Dean Jones, review of The Flower Master, p. 160; February 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of The Samurai's Daughter, p. 173.
New York Times Book Review, May 2, 1999, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Flower Master, p. 28.
People, November 17, 1997, p. 43.
Publishers Weekly, April 13, 1998, review of Zen Attitude, p. 72; April 5, 1999, review of The Flower Master, p. 225; April 17, 2000, review of The Floating Girl, p. 54; August 6, 2001, review of The Bride's Kimono, p. 66; February 24, 2003, review of The Samurai's Daughter, p. 56.
Washington Post Book World, October 10, 1999, Paul Skenazy, review of The Flower Master, p. 13; October 14, 2001, Patrick Anderson, review of The Bride's Kimono, p. 13.
Sujata Massey Web site,http://www.interbridge.com/ sujata (July 24, 2002).
Writers Write,http://www.writerswrite.com/ (October, 1998), interview with Massey.*