Face of the Enemy
War is about to be declared against Germany and Japan. Americans are traumatized by Japan’s military attack on Pearl Harbor. Suspicion and prejudice are running high. Even before these momentous historical events, Masako Fumio’s art show is beset by anti-Japanese sentiment, specifically amplified by a woman who during the opening of the show throws a glass of wine at one of Masako’s best paintings. This painting combines abstract and traditional Japanese poetry in calligraphy, a combination that will make her the foremost target of FBI and New York police investigation after the sponsor of her art is murdered, his body deliberately left in front of the same painting.
Louise Hunter, a nurse taking care of Masako’s husband, Professor Oakley, is present when the FBI arrives to take Masako away for questioning and imprisonment. Louise enlists the help of a notable attorney to help free Masako, while Detective Mike McKenna investigates the murder of her art sponsor. Many so-called friends have alibis for the night of the murder, but they also have motives galore that earn them the label “suspect.”
What works so well in this novel is the perfect balance between history and the mystery being unraveled. The FBI is hoping to trade Masako with some high-ranking persons imprisoned in Japan; their obvious prejudice and devious treatment of Masako is guaranteed to elicit strong reactions from the reader. Mike McKenna is the perfect detective, slow to believe in Masako’s innocence but fair enough to hold off a final opinion until completion of his task. A subplot involving a Nazi sympathizer and his family adds unbridled tension. Overall, Face of the Enemy is an accurate, exciting novel, demonstrating the finest writing in historical fiction and the mystery genre. A must read!