The Cherry Blossom Murder – Japan – Fran Pickering

cherry book

The booktrail goes to Japan

Welcome to the world of the world of the famous Japanese all-female Takarazuka revue

The spring resort a few miles from Osaka, home to the famous Takarazuka ….

but last night its peaceful streets were the scene of a real life drama..

This is how we are introduced to Japan and the famous Takarazuka in  a novel about murder and mystery…..and a Londoner called Josie who finds herself in the middle of it all……

This is what I love about fiction – the places it takes you to and the experiences it gives you from its very pages. A novel set not only in Japan but in the heart of Japanese culture? Yes please!

Sapporo, Tokyo and Tarazuka
A Sapporo, B -Tokyo and C- Takarazuka

Story in a nutshell-

Londoner Josie Clark gets more than the bargained for as she stumbles onto a  body beneath a cherry blossom tree.

She soon become involved with the investigation and once she starts to dig deeper, she finds out a lot more than she may care to know. Who is the stranger that the victim was last seen talking to; who is Ms Kato and who or what is the Takarazuka Revue hiding?

The famous Takarazuka

Pic courtesy of Fran Pickering
Pic courtesy of Fran Pickering

Now I had didn’t know much at all about the famous Takarazuka (shameful I know) and so I was very much wanting to know more..but first I wanted to find out.

This is the Takarazuka revue is amazing – around 400 actresses singing and dancing in elaborate costumes and putting on a spectacular of a show.  They’re all female dancers but some of them dress as men and play the parts of men in the shows (rather like in the days of Shakespeare I thought when women were banned in the theatre)

These dancers are treated like mega stars in their homeland and are reverred and followed whereever they go. Fran Pickering herself took this picture to give an idea of just how  elaborate a show this is.

In addition to the theatre setting however, the way in which Fran evokes not only the landscape of the country but the culture too is very interesting  – the Japanese fan club culture to the fore and really illustrates the culture and lifestyle of Japan itself. At one of the shows for example –

Nobody on the fan club staff have boyfriends. They don’t have the time

A few flashes went off from newspaper photographers but they were kept at a distance by fan club staff.

For if Josie is a foreigner in Japan there are no stereotypes or clichés here. What we get is a very interesting jaunt into a world so far removed that anyone (certainly at the book trail) has ever been into before. Josie is not your typical Brit ‘lost in space’ kind of tourist as although an outsider, she fully embraces Japanese customs,  and so can show us things that a complete novice might not see.

Fran waves her magic wand to conjure up Japan right before our eyes and even before you get into the mystery, the setting takes your breath away –

Shinjuku garden in Tokyo - Pic from Fran Pickering
Shinjuku garden in Tokyo – Pic from Fran Pickering
the cherry blossom in the parks and streets
Cherry blossom in the parks and streets – Photo from Fran Pickering

This is a murder mystery with the beautiful cherry trees and landscapes of Japan and it makes it all the more thrilling to read of murder in paradise and that a British girl should try to make sense of her new surroundings, a relatively alien culture to her despite her having lived there for a while before the murder, and it’s a great premise for what looks to be a cracking series of mysteries. The world Fran creates is unique and exciting and the location really comes into its own  – for its very beauty and cultural clash make the mystery of the murder all the more horrifying.

If you like red herrings, twists, lots of trying to fight against what you believe to be the truth – and a rollocking great murder mystery – then may we suggest you step on board The Cherry Blossom Murder train and take a ride to Japan. For the second mystery is pulling into the station October this year and we for one will surely be on it.

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