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Death by Deception, by Anne Wingate.

October 2, 2014

Death by Deception, by Anne Wingate. Harper/Mystery, 1988.

A somewhat conventional mystery, except for its Japanese American investigator and its setting on the Texas Gulf coast, where racial violence has flared.

Mark Shigata is descended from Japanese who immigrated to the United States several generations ago. He works in Bayport, Texas, between Houston and Galveston, a region where long-time resident Anglos have fought the Vietnamese over fishing rights. This time Shigata is not just investigating crime in other people’s lives, however. His step-daughter has disappeared, and there is a corpse found near his home. An unlikely sidekick helps him figure out what is going on.

Ann Wingate is not an Asian American, herself.  The author of numerous mysteries, she seems to be a fascinating individual who has a Ph. D. in English and has worked in law enforcement. (Check out her self-description.) This is the first of her three Mark Shigata mysteries. Her characters are unique and fun to follow. She makes no attempt to be deep or literary, but her book is well constructed with lots of delicious surprises. While the inability of some people to view others as fully human is key to Death by Deception, she never preaches about race or overemphasizes it.

When I was researching and writing about Asian Texans, I ran across references to Wingate’s mysteries. I am glad to have finally found one of them. I gladly recommend her writing to all who enjoy good mysteries, especially ones that take readers outside the white cocoon of much genre fiction.

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