What People Are Saying

Praise for The Kimono Tattoo

Van Gessel

“This is an extraordinary first novel from a renowned scholar and translator of modern Japanese literature. Copeland knows Japan—and especially Kyoto—inside out, and she takes the reader from the outside into the back streets and subterranean canals beneath the iconic Philosopher’s Path. The descriptions are so vivid that those of us who have spent time in Japan cannot help but nod in admiration at Copeland’s ability to evoke the sights and sounds and smells of this magnificent city, while those who have never been there will finish the book feeling as though they have. The quirky, often mysterious characters are deftly drawn; the reader should be able to pick each one out from a police line-up. The plot is full of surprising twists that delight and occasionally horrify. I enthusiastically recommend this novel to readers who know much or nothing about Japan; you will finish it feeling educated and entertained. And, wow, will you learn a LOT about kimonos!”

Van Gessel, Professor of Japanese Literature (retired)
former Dean of the BYU College of Humanities, Brigham Young University

John Treat

“Will its American heroine, Ruth, be back to play detective some more? Let’s hope.”

“This well-written page-turner of a mystery has more twists and turns than you can count. But more than that, if you’ve ever lived in Kyoto, The Kimono Tattoo will make you homesick. Copeland’s ancient capital isn’t just temples and sublime kimono fabrics, either: it’s today’s Starbucks and junk food from the convenience store eaten down on the banks of the Kamo River. Will its American heroine, Ruth, be back to play detective some more? Let’s hope.”

John Whittier Treat, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Languages and Literature at Yale University

“Every scene is so vividly depicted that it was as if I was watching a movie. This is an engaging and entertaining novel.”

“What drew me to The Kimono Tattoo first was the protagonist Ruth’s background—her early life in Japan, scholarly interest in Japanese literature, and work as a translator. As she, the translator of “Kimono Killer,” finds herself involved in murder mysteries, the story of a woman possessed by the spirit of a kimono maker and of a vicious and vengeful killer unfolds. And, every scene is so vividly depicted that it was as if I was watching a movie. This is an engaging and entertaining novel. “You may be a foreigner, but the Japanese past lives on through your work and your interests” says Ruth’s Japanese dance teacher to her. The same can be said of the author Rebecca Copeland.”

Jung J. Choi
Korean Literature, PhD
South Korea

Jan Bardsley

“I read The Kimono Tattoo in almost one day—all afternoon and evening, and then finished in the wee hours of the next morning. So, that’s how the story ends! (No spoilers here, folks). I absolutely loved meeting all the lively characters Copeland creates. Whether major characters that you follow throughout the book or minor ones that pop up for a couple pages, all stand out as believable and unique. And I like the way Copeland makes you feel as if you’re in every day Kyoto, catching a train or taking a morning run or popping into a convenience store. At the same time, she weaves in stories that give you a deeper sense of Japanese culture from kimono artistry and traditional dance to legends and literature. All this works to move the mystery in fascinating and unpredictable ways. The Kimono Tattoo offers a brilliant escape on a summer’s day or a dark and stormy night. A great read.”

Jan Bardsley, Professor Emerita of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“Ruth Bennett leads a seemingly mediocre life, but when a mysterious woman shows up to deliver a peculiar story, things get interesting.”

Ruth Bennett, the protagonist in Rebecca Copeland’s new mystery, The Kimono Tattoo, is an American translator working in Kyoto, Japan. She leads a seemingly mediocre life, but when a mysterious woman shows up to deliver a peculiar story, things get interesting. The visitor, Miyo Tokuda, asks Ruth to translate a novel written by the famous Japanese author Shōtarō Tani, a member of a family known for its intricate kimono designs. Tani, however, withdrew from society years ago. As Ruth begins to read the novel, she discovers shocking twists that send her on a series of wild adventures—until a daughter in the Tani family is found dead with a mysterious tattoo that covers her entire body. As Ruth searches for more and more information about the Tani family, she discovers a surprising secret about her own.

Although she calls the United States home, Copeland was born in Japan and still visits—particularly Kyoto. “As I was growing up, my parents often talked about Japan, so it was always this interesting place that fascinated me even before I got to know it as an adult,” she says. Perhaps the biggest theme in her thriller is the struggle of cultural identity. Copeland wanted much of her novel to focus on Ruth’s internal conflict as a woman who doesn’t consider herself Japanese but is familiar with the language and traditions. The Tani family drama, history of the kimono, and Ruth’s job as a translator all flowed from there. What does she hope for readers? That her novel will bring a newfound appreciation and fascination for Japan and its culture.

Connor Tighe, St. Louis Magazine