James Melville

Tetsua Otani - Japanese police superintendent for Hyog Prerfecture - Kobe, Japan

"The Wages of Zen"

(Reviewed by Judi Clark MAR 23, 1998)

Wages of Zen by James Melville

Superintendent Tetsua Otani of the Hyogo Prefectural Police and his wife Hanae enjoy a comfortable life. Murder is a rare crime in Japan.  But an Irish Catholic priest has been found dead in the snow at a sacred Buddhist temple and it looks like murder.  So which one of the five foreigners who has gathered to learn and practice ancient teachings of the Zen masters an the the Chisho-ji Zen Study Center could have done and why?

I found Wages of Zen in a "3 for $1.00" bin of fairly beat up books, and thought to myself, "why not?" - I liked the title.  As it turns out, Melville lived in Japan, so this is not as an outrageous name for the author of a Japanese novel as it initially seemed to me. This is a so-so mystery, but it is interesting from the point of view of Japanese culture. It made me crave sushi. I wouldn't recommend that you spend a lot of money for this book, but do look for it and others at the library or used bookstore if you want a quick read that brings you to another culture. Really, how can anyone resist his titles?

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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Other novels:

  • The Imperial Way (1986)
  • A Tarnished Phoenix (1990)


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Book Marks:


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About the Author:

James Melville is the pen name of Roy Peter Martin. He was born in London in 1931 and educated in North London.  He read philosophy at Birkbeck College before being conscripted in the RAF, then took up school-teaching and adult education. Most of his subsequent career was spent overseas in cultural diplomacy and educational development, and it was in this capacity that he came to know, love, and write about Japan and the Japanese.  He is married to a singer-actress and has two sons.

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