Friday, August 08, 2008

'Clouds Over Mountains'

by Matt Joseph
Fiction/Mystery, 2007
AuthorHouse, trade pb, 429 p.
Fifty three years after the end of World War II, a former Japanese navy pilot lives in quiet retirement concealing a dishonorable wartime past.
Margaret Roberts, a senior U.S. government official at the end of her pioneering career, confronts her mother’s failing health while she juggles nagging ambition and her quest for happiness.

Saito and Roberts each take refuge in Hawaii, where they help the FBI solve a mysterious shooting in Pearl Harbor. As that murder investigation unfolds, hidden stories are revealed that link Saito and Roberts to December 7, 1941, a day of infamy that pushed the world into war and would prove pivotal to both of them.

Against the backdrop of a stunning crime in late 1998 and its aftermath, Clouds Over Mountains moves between modern-day Hawaii, Japan, and Washington, D.C., weaving recollections of pre-war Japan with contemporary political intrigue. The novel examines themes of love and family, shame and redemption, truth and hope, and considers how historical events continue to effect people six decades later.
I’m always interested in reading books with some sort of Japanese connection, and this was no exception. This seems to be the year that I’ve started reading about WWII, from different perspectives, first with The Ash Garden, Black Rain and Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, then Farewell to Manzanar, and now this mystery that delves into both the Japanese and American sides of the war and the long-lasting effects it has had.

I'm perhaps being picky but I had a couple small problems with the book. The chronology was occasionally difficult to follow, especially at the beginning (although this could've been because I was too tired to read more than a few pages at a time at the start), and there were quite a few typos. They were relatively minor but I still found them distracting. (No need to point out that my grammar isn't always perfect!) And I agree with this review at Curled Up With a Good Book (by The Sleepy Reader) that perhaps Agent Swanson’s Southern accent was a bit overdone even though it did grow on me by the end of the book.

But I also think the author has done a very good job setting the scene, bringing the various pieces of the story together, and creating characters to care about. As the story slowly unfolded, it kept me reading, wanting to know how it turned out for everyone involved. Plus I even learned a little history, about the Japanese navy, the attack on Pearl Harbor and then their defeat at the battle of Midway (I’ve never been much for military details). However, it's the human stories behind the war that really make the story. All in all, it was an enjoyable read.

Thank you to the author, Matt Joseph, for sending me a copy of his book. It’s his first venture into fiction, but I look forward to reading more by him in the future.
You can read a short excerpt from the book here.

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#33 for 2008)

Also reviewed at:
ForeWord Magazine
Book Chase
The Sleepy Reader
Reminder: If you've read and reviewed this title, let me know and I'll link to it here.


  1. Despite the flaws, this does sound like a good book. At least like something I would really enjoy reading. And since I'm going to Hawaii in just a few more weeks, my radar on anything that shouts Hawaii is set pretty high. :-)

  2. Wendy- I was perhaps a bit too harsh when I wrote the review (I've reworded it slightly) as the issues I had really were minor and I did enjoy the story. I've never been to Hawaii but this book made me interested to visit the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbour for myself someday. I bet you're looking forward to your trip. :)

  3. I enjoyed this book too. You've already linked to my review at Curled Up but if you'd like to link directly to my review, it can be found here:

  4. Amy- Thanks, I've added the link to your blog in as well.


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