For three hundred years, an elusive masterpiece passes from one fortune-seeker to the next, indelibly altering the lives of all who possess it...
I’m so excited that I can finally give you a sneak peek into The Last Tea Bowl Thief!
It’s a two-timeline tale, with one thread taking place in the samurai era, and the other unspooling in modern-day Tokyo, where two women from opposite sides of the globe discover that both their futures depend on possessing a cultural treasure that’s been missing since before they were born.
Read on, for the jacket description and (shhhh!) an excerpt that nobody else will be able to see before publication day…
From The Last Tea Bowl Thief back cover:
Robin Swann’s fairytale life in Tokyo has sputtered to a stop. She’s stuck in a dead-end job testing antiquities for an auction house, but her true love is poetry, not pottery. Her stalled dissertation sits on her laptop, unopened in months, and she has no one to confide in but her goldfish.
On the other side of town, Nori Okuda sells rice bowls and tea cups to Tokyo restaurants, as her family has done for generations. But with her grandmother in the hospital, the family business is foundering. Nori knows if her luck doesn’t change soon, she’ll lose what little she has left.
With nothing in common, Nori and Robin suddenly find their futures inextricably linked to an ancient, elusive tea bowl. Glimpses of the past set the stage as they hunt for the lost masterpiece, uncovering long-buried secrets in their wake. As they get closer to the truth—and the tea bowl—the women must choose between seizing their dreams or righting the terrible wrong that has poisoned its legacy for centuries.
So…is it any good?
Okay, hmm, I might not be the most objective person to answer that. But some far more trustworthy people are saying:
“I don’t know when I’ve been more caught up in a story. Jonelle Patrick handles the fascinating, centuries-old tale of the tea bowl with elegance and verve. Her descriptions are flawless and reveal her deep understanding of Japanese culture. A masterful achievement.” —Terry Shames, award-winning author of An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock
“An immersive page-turner, meticulously researched and perfectly plotted. Patrick has crafted a subtle, layered mystery filled with intriguing characters and masterful twists. Without question, the best book I have read all year.” —Susan Spann, author of the Hiro Hattori mysteries and CLIMB
“Absolute page-turner…the different storylines slowly converge in a profoundly satisfying away, like the flawless bow on a Japanese gift. What a marvelous ride.”—Katherine Catmull, author of Summer and Bird
“A suspenseful plot that keeps you guessing while at the same time whisking you away to another time and place with enviable ease…a pleasure to read.” —Mary Mackey, New York Times bestselling author of The Year The Horses Came
“…an engaging read of choices—and second chances—that cross the centuries.” —Mandy Bartok, Japan specialist at Uncovering Japan
Here’s a little sample…
Excerpt from The Last Tea Bowl Thief
Print Length: 316 pages
Publisher: Seventh Street Books (October 20, 2020)
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Sold by: Simon & Schuster Digital Sales Inc
FRIDAY, MARCH 28
Art Authentication Specialist Robin Swann shoves her front door shut with her hip, dumping the mail and her handbag atop the shoe cupboard with a sigh of relief. Why is it that no matter how big her purse is, the stuff inside expands to fill it? Rubbing her aching shoulder, she scuffs her feet into the fluffy pink slippers waiting beyond the edge of the entry tiles and trudges down the hall toward the kitchen. Detouring to the pocket-sized bedroom on the way, she trades her pantyhose and suit for sweatpants and a t-shirt, zips a faded college hoodie over the top. Then she grabs a shapeless sweater and pulls it over her bush of blond hair, because it’s still two-sweatshirt weather in her apartment. People have been posting bursting blossoms online for weeks now, but anyone who has read the haiku masters and lived in Japan for eight years knows that’s just an invitation for a late dump of snow.
Ugh, has it really been eight years? She takes off her glasses and rubs her tired eyes. She’s over thirty, still living year-to-year on a precarious academic visa that has to be renewed every April, and has had a longer relationship with her goldfish than with any man since she arrived. Speaking of which . . . she crosses the room to the clear glass bowl and peers in. The orange fish lurks near the bottom, not moving, but not belly-up either. She taps in a few flakes of foul-smelling food, and it waves its feeble fins, rising slowly to the surface to nibble.
At first, she’d kept the unwanted pet in a pickle jar, expecting it to move on to goldfish heaven within the week. Instead, it was her romance with the Japanese chef who’d won it for her at a shrine festival that died a quick death, while the stubborn orange fish lived on. After being ghosted by two more prospective boyfriends—neither of whom had been able to deal with her being taller and heavier than they were, even at her skinniest and in flats—she’d reluctantly bought the fish a clear bowl with a fluted blue rim, sprinkled some colored gravel on the bottom, and given it a name.
Fishface is now two—no, three—years old. Surely that’s some kind of record for a festival goldfish. She keys a search into her phone. Nope, apparently, she and Fishface would have to live here thirty-eight more years to challenge that one. The very idea makes her want to . . . what? Scream? Drink wine straight from the bottle? Eat a whole carton of green tea ice cream?
She tucks the canister of fish food back behind the framed photo of her solid Middle American parents, flanking a beaming, longer-haired Robin who’s squinting into the sun and clutching the diploma proclaiming her a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies. She’d been so excited that day, a week shy of stepping onto a plane to begin her graduate program in Kyoto. So many shining roads had stretched before her, and on that sunny afternoon she still had no idea that the one she’d chosen would lead her further and further from the Japanese poetry master who was her passion, and turn her into a reluctant expert on Yoshi Takamatsu’s tea bowls instead.
The truth is, her fairytale life in Japan is slowly grinding to a halt. She has a dead-end job authenticating antique ceramics, a month-to-month studio apartment near an inconvenient train station, and a marked-up fourth draft of her PhD dissertation languishing on her laptop, the file unopened since mid-December.
That reminds her, she still hasn’t gotten the letter from her thesis advisor that’s key to renewing her visa for another year. If she doesn’t submit her application next week, she’ll be in deep trouble. Retracing her steps, she scoops up the wedge of mostly pizza flyers and utility bills, shuffling through it until she spots a fat envelope with her academic advisor’s return address in the corner. Whew. If she makes the dreaded pilgrimage to the immigration office next week, her visa renewal should nip in under the deadline.
Abandoning the junk mail, she returns to the kitchenette and tugs on the overhead light’s grubby string pull. The fluorescent UFO overhead stutters to life as she opens the refrigerator. There’s a gap where the wine bottle usually stands. She groans, remembering that the last of her California chardonnay had contributed to last night’s vow to get out more, meet new people, maybe even sign up for a matchmaking service. As if.
Turning to the cupboard, she discovers that her wine supply has dwindled to a single bottle of pinot and the dusty bottle of champagne she’d received when she finished her master’s degree. She twists the top off the red and pours some into the glass that never quite makes it back into the cupboard from the dish drainer. A nightly glass of wine is her one indulgence, and although American wine is more expensive than French in Tokyo, she considers drinking California chardonnay and Oregon pinot among her few remaining acts of patriotism.
She takes a sip and plops down at her low table with the envelope from her advisor. Slits it open, to make sure everything has been signed and sealed.
It has. But a note is paper-clipped to the renewal form, and her smile fades as she reads. The professor, who supervised her research establishing that the tea bowl discovered in the Jakkō-in convent’s treasure house had indeed been made in the 1700s by Yoshi Takamatsu, regrets to inform her that if she doesn’t submit her doctoral dissertation within the coming academic year, he’ll be unable to sponsor her visa again.
Robin’s heart sinks. If she fails to finish her dissertation, she can’t stay in Japan. And if she can’t stay, where will she go? Certainly not home.
And if you’re desperate for some fresh escapist reading sooner than October 20, I’m giving away copies of this all-new, not-for-sale Yumi & Kenji short now!
Japanagram is my free monthly newsletter, and if you become a subscriber before September 1st, 2020 you’ll get a free downloadable ebook of the new It Was You Only In Tokyo Short (79 pp) and ten lucky winners will get a signed paperback copy!
Click on the Get Japanagram button, sign up, (don’t worry, it’s free!) and the September Japanagram will deliver your very own It Was You ebook, an announcement of the paperback winners, and, of course, all the quirky Japan-centric feature stories you’ll only see in Japanagram.
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Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!