“A Burden of Flowers” is an intelligent, cosmopolitan novel set in the exotic surroundings of Bali and alive with suspense, drug intrigue, courtroom drama, and political tension.
The action centers on Asia-traveling Japanese artist “Tez” Nishijima and his Europhile sister Kaoru. When Tez is arrested in Bali on charges of heroin trafficking and faces the death penalty, his parents are paralyzed with shame, leaving his Paris-based sister to come to the rescue. She enlists the help of an old expert on Indonesia and two of his friends, and (like Dorothy with the Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow) sets off to challenge a shadowy and, to her, very alien situation. Her brother, languishing in jail, thinks back over his journeys in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, to the two women (one sweet, one sinister) who changed his life there, to his subsequent slow spiral into drug addiction and to the day a police stooge planted a cigarette carton filled with heroin in his room in the Kuta Beach backpack territory of Bali.
Tez’s life hangs in the balance, tipped one way by the maneuverings of a dangerous senior police officer, and the other way by the investigative efforts of an undercover agent who, in a powerful climax, is shot and left for dead.
“A Burden of Flowers” is both a Pan-Asian adventure that will appeal to readers familiar with “The Beach“, and a cutting-edge portrait of the “New Asia” in which Japan (the long-lost, economically spoiled child of the region) is still struggling to find itself.
“A Burden of Flowers” received a coveted literary award, the Mainichi Prize, in 2000.