Glancing out the windows of Sujata Massey's house on an early spring day, you could be on a quiet street anywhere, in Japan, or India, or Minneapolis, Minn.
Massey shares a bond with all of those places, but her heart and home are in the Roland Park area. She lives near Roland Avenue, in Tuxedo Park.
An Indian tablecloth graces Massey's dining room table, where the award-wining author and former reporter — best known for her series of mystery novels set in Japan featuring sleuth Rei Shimura — does most of her writing.
India, specifically the India of the 1920s through World War II, is what Massey, 50, spent five years researching and writing about for her 11th and latest novel, "The Sleeping Dictionary," a historical saga with elements of espionage that's quite a switch from her popular mysteries. (The title refers to young Indian women who lived with European men and educated them in the ways of India.)
Massey, whose father is from India, tells the tale of a young girl, the lone survivor of an ocean wave that decimates her home village, who moves to Calcutta, creates a new life under an assumed name and fights for her country's freedom as Colonial India chafes under imperial rule.
Published in the U.S. late last year by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, the book, which has garnered good reviews, is also being published in India with the title, "City of Palaces." Massey would like to see the sweeping story made into a movie and hopes India's thriving film industry will take notice.
Available on Amazon.com is a novella, "The Ayah's Tale," originally a tangent that she cut from "The Sleeping Dictionary."
As buzz builds about the new book, Massey is busy speaking at events such as the Govans Library's annual spring lecture, which was hosted by Friends of the Govans Library on March 29. Upcoming events include Five Deadly Dames, with Massey and mystery writers Marcia Talley, Elaine Viets, Hank Phillippi Ryan and Frances Brody, at the Ivy Bookshop in Mount Washington on May 5.
Massey has lived in Japan, and in the Twin Cities, where she has family and did much of the research for "The Sleeping Dictionary" at the University of Minnesota's Ames Library of South Asia.
She has visited India five times and hopes to return this summer. "It's part of who I am," she said, "just like those Midwestern years are part of me."
But she said, "I would absolutely call myself a Baltimorean."
She lives near the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arets degree in the Writing Seminars program in 1986 and where she met her husband, Anthony, a psychiatrist in Baltimore. She began her career as a features and fashion writer for the old Baltimore Evening Sun.
She is a mother, who ran out after an interview to pick up her daughter, Pia, a sophomore, after school at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Her son, Neel is in sixth grade at The Greenmount School in Remington and plays in the Roland Park Baseball Leagues. She said adopting them in 1999 and 2002 led to "my expansion of writing territory to India."
Massey said she writes mostly during the school day, because, "Once they get home, there's a lot going on."
The other family member is Charlie, a beagle, who came with them from Minnesota.
"He prefers the weather here," she said.
Massey was born in England to a mother from Germany and a father who emigrated from India. Her mother manages a group of eye doctors in the Twin Cities. Her father retired as a professor of geology at the University of Minnesota.
Her parents divorced amicably and both have remarried natives of India.
Massey grew up in St. Paul, came east to Goucher College in Towson for two years, and then transferred to Hopkins.