Rei and Hugh are finally engaged, and Rei should be frantically preparing for her upcoming wedding. Except that a strange kind of malaise seems to have infected her: she's beginning to dislike living in Washington D.C. and she's really missing living in Japan. So that when (through her well connected cousin, Kendall) Rei is presented with the opportunity of decorating a new and trendy Japanese restaurant, Bento, Rei fairly leaps at the chance to earn some money. Plus she may actually latch onto a new market for her antique goods!
Working at Bento, Rei becomes acquainted with the restaurant's prickly hostess, Andrea -- a seemingly cold and standoffish individual, and not someone that Rei would want as a friend. So that when Andrea asks Rei to help her discover what happened to her mother, Rei is floored. But Andrea's story of how her Japanese mother, Sadako, broke with tradition in order to marry Andrea's father (an African American soldier) in the midst of the Vietnam war, of Sadako's subsequent disappearance almost 30 years ago, and her father's reluctance to divulge anything to Andrea that could help her understand Sadako's disappearance, moves and intrigues Rei; and she soon finds herself totally absorbed with Andrea's problem to the extent that she's even involved her wise and beloved visiting Aunt Norie in her investigation. The more Rei uncovers about Sadako and her early difficulties in trying to adapt to her life in America and as a new wife, the more Rei begins to question her the wisdom of getting married so soon. Defnitely, her love for Hugh is true and all consuming (as is his love for her) but is it enough? Can Rei give up her independence and become the perfect wife? And can she make do with life in America when she still wistfully yearns to return to Japan?
Like the previous reviewers, I'm a fan of Sujata Massey's Rei Shimura mystery novels. What I liked about them, other than that they're well written, totally absorbing and wholly addicting, is the manner in which the authour also makes the dilemmas that a young, not so well off, modern and independent woman would feel and go through as she tries to adjust to the many vagaries that life throws at her, an integral part of the series. The mystery of what happened to Andrea's mother (Is she alive or dead? Why did she disappear and is there some dark reason for her disappearance?) doesn't really get introduced until we're about 4 or 5 chapters into "The Pearl Diver;" however, because we are treated to an update on what's going on with Rei and Hugh, and a good and succinct description of the what's going on at the restaurant and the characters involved, the reader's interest is quickly snagged and engaged from the very first page. The mystery subplot dealing with the missing Sadako was a very intriguing and interesting one, and I rather wished that "The Pearl Diver" had dwelt solely on that mystery subplot instead of sharing it with the mysterious kidnapping subplot involving Rei's cousin, Kendall. On the whole, though, "The Pearl Diver" was a wonderful read, and one that I enjoyed completely, esp since the authour had thoughtfully included Rei's Japanese aunt, Norie (one of my favourite characters) in this installment.