Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Clouds Over Mountains

The December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was one of the pivotal events of American history, an event that not only changed the course of World War II but also greatly impacted the futures of America and Japan for generations to come. In Clouds Over Mountains, author Matt Joseph revisits that tragic day from both the American and Japanese points-of-view.

Yasuo Saito, who became one of Japan’s finest wartime pilots despite his humble beginnings in rural Japan, has lived with what he considers to be a shameful secret for almost fifty-three years. He lived a quiet, self-contained life all those years but, fearing that his secret is about to be exposed, he decides that personal honor and loyalties require him to return to Hawaii’s Pearl Harbor one last time.

Margaret Roberts, one of the FBI’s most successful female agents ever, has reached the point in late 1998 of being considered for the agency’s top spot, a mixed blessing because of the personal embarrassment resulting from the media investigation into her past and qualifications for the job. Roberts, hoping to relieve some of the tremendous stress she is under, looks to a few days in Hawaii as the way to go but finds herself there when an unusual crime makes headlines around the world: a body has been found on the U.S.S. Arizona memorial with bloody footprints leading away from it. Because of the location of the crime scene, the FBI assumes jurisdiction over the investigation and Roberts is immediately in the thick of things.

Clouds Over Mountains is an intriguing mystery, one that keeps the reader guessing for a while, but its real strength is that it is a strong character-driven mystery and not just a simple whodunit. Yasuo Saito is old-school when it comes to issues of personal honor and he has struggled for most of his life to reconcile himself to a decision that he made during the war. Through Saito’s efforts to explain the life that he has lived for the last five decades, the reader is taken inside a pre-World War II Japanese society very different from the modern Japan we know today. It is an interesting look at what American history will always characterize as a “sneak attack” from the viewpoint of those responsible for the attack and a reminder that both sides suffer greatly during any armed conflict.

Clouds Over Mountains is about family loyalties, patriotism, personal honor and shame, and desire for atonement. As in the best fiction of this type, history is simply the backdrop used to share the lessons learned by those who were there to experience it. This one took me to a world I was not at all familiar with, and I’m glad I made the trip.

Rated at: 4.0


  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I'm already caught up them "getting the bad guy" because I just can't imagine someone desecrating the Arizona Memorial like that.

  2. Sounds like a book right up my alley. Mysteries and historical links. Added to my list :).

  3. I really enjoy books about this part of history. I'm adding this one to my TBR. Thanks!

  4. Annie, the location of the crime is one of the keys to the story. It does have a certain "shock value," doesn't it?

  5. Myster Reader, it's the exact combination you describe...give it a try and let me know what you think.

  6. Natasha, if you do read it, holler back at me and give me your opinion. I found it to be an interesting look at a society I know very little about.