The Last Tea Bowl Thief

Written by Jonelle Patrick
Review by K. M. Sandrick

In present-day Tokyo, Nori Okuda thinks she may have found a tea bowl crafted by the Pottery Priest Yoshi Takamatsu in the 1700s. Robin Swan, a graduate student and expert in Takamatsu tea bowls, is hoping to gain access to an unpublished manuscript that will support her thesis of a link between the potter and the poet Saburo. The women come together to learn that the tea bowl has been stolen more than once over the course of three centuries and for motives other than profit.

The Last Tea Bowl Thief moves from the Japan of today to the Edo Period and wartime 1945. It elegantly presents aspects of Japanese beliefs and customs, appreciates the artistry and technique of transforming clay into the handless chawan used to foster loyalty, retain power, and consolidate allegiances between daimyo and nobles in tea ceremonies, and highlights the revelations that come in ordinary moments and the attachments in life that give rise to suffering and are meant to be broken.

The novel is author Patrick’s latest mystery set in Japan and her first historical mystery. She has written four crime novels in the Only In Tokyo series and produces monthly newsletters focused on things Japanese. A graduate of the Sendagaya Japanese Institute, Patrick splits her time between San Francisco and Tokyo.

Part love story, part lament, part investigation, The Last Tea Bowl Thief is meant to be savored.