top of page
  • N. N. Light

Clouds Over Mountains by Matt Joseph is an Indie Reads pick #historicalfiction #indiereads #giveaway

Title: Clouds Over Mountains


Author: Matt Joseph


Genre: Historical Fiction


Book Blurb:


Yasuo Saito is a former Japanese naval pilot living in quiet retirement concealing a dishonorable wartime past. Margaret Roberts, a senior U.S. government official at the end of her pioneering career, confronts her mother’s failing health while she juggles nagging ambition and her quest for happiness.


Saito and Roberts each take refuge in Hawaii, where they help the FBI solve a mysterious shooting in Pearl Harbor. As that murder investigation unfolds, hidden stories are revealed that link Saito and Roberts to December 7, 1941, a day of infamy that pushed the world into war and would prove pivotal to both of them.


Against the backdrop of a shocking crime in late 1998, “Clouds Over Mountains” moves between modern-day Hawaii, Japan, and Washington, D.C., weaving recollections of pre-war Japan with contemporary political intrigue. The novel examines themes of love and family, shame and redemption, truth and hope, and how historical events continue to shape people's lives six decades later.






He waits, keeps his mouth shut, watches and wonders.


Seven days a week this complex teems with tourists. Hundreds might stand in long lines to view the documentary or board the boats, to browse the gift shop or snap photographs.


Tonight they’re gone, but not the beehive of activity: the complex is overrun by countless police and military, firemen and paramedics, wave after wave of authority. Yellow caution tape cordons off entire buildings. Radios blare inaudible monotones while red, amber and blue flashing lights reflect off cement walls.


Officials arrive in all manner of dress. Some are casual, others in suits, many in uniform. Most are poker-faced and look straight ahead. A few seem irreverent and may not understand — they parade by, laughing and joking. Singles or pairs, sometimes in larger groups, each comes through the courtyard, past the dark corridor where he’s sitting, down steps to the grassy waterfront promenade.


There they point through heavy fog across the bay, huddle, gesture, talk into cell phones, eventually leave.


All night long, this is what the chief petty officer sees and hears. He waits alone, isolated to the side, cold and hungry, chain-smoking Marlboros, and battling conflicting emotions.


Fatigue and boredom. Unwelcome attention. The horror of what he saw. He knows what he saw, but he’s unable to calculate the geometry, the logic, the meaning of it, the how and why.


Meanwhile, he thinks. Who are these people? How much should I say? What really happened? Who was he? Of all places, why there? What type of questions will they ask?


Now, finally, they come get him for the interview.


He’s ushered inside a drab conference room that’s overheated and reeks of stale air. A lone armchair has been placed at the far side of a laminated rectangular table.


Five men and one woman greet him — the men are stern and sober, but she’s blonde and beautiful. They’re across from him, four civilians and two officers in U.S. Navy winter blues. Some sit, others stand. At the head of the table, a second woman fiddles with a black box atop a silver tripod. The stenographer, she’s plain looking compared to the blonde, and less official than the others, but he acknowledges her smile with a wink.


There are no handshakes, no small talk. After introductions, he remembers none of their names, only their organizations. Taking his seat, the atmosphere strikes him as court-like, as if Perry Mason is about to begin some crucial cross-examination. Questions, he soon learns, are asked almost free-for-all, thrown from every direction, considering each angle. The process, he’d later tell friends, was like watching quarrelsome carpenters build a house. Framing first, foundation next, then the roof.


The beautiful blonde is an FBI agent — there are at least three of them — and she takes charge. But nobody seems clearly in charge; he’s been in the Navy long enough to recognize a turf battle. The FBI agents pursue one line of questioning; the two uniforms — Naval Investigative Service — take a different tack. They frequently interrupt one another. One man in the back corner is neither FBI nor Navy; he wears a jacket and tie, seems preppy and effeminate, watches everything, misses nothing.


The woman agent hands the chief a bottle of water, explains the process, and encourages him to relax. Her deep Southern accent and tranquility are reassuring. After providing his name, rank, and unit for the record, he sips from the water bottle.


“Yes, ma’am, our shift had just ended,” he begins, scratching stubble on his sharp jaw line with three middle fingers. “Usual stuff; we’d ferried people and cargo around the harbor all day. It was just me and Seaman Franks,” he says, referring to his young crewmate.


“We’d returned to the Navy Yard at the end of our shift, near the dry docks, had tied up and begun to secure the boat for the night. It was already dark. And foggy; man, was it foggy. The wharf area was deserted, creepy — what you expect for a Sunday night. We both wanted to leave and so we worked quickly, without much talking.”


The lead FBI agent presses for more specifics about the timeline. Here the chief falters, admitting confusion. The sequence of key events had perhaps taken seconds, not minutes — he’s not really sure. He glances at his watch and shrugs.


“It was about then, as we’d nearly finished tying up for the night, the first gunshot came from the north: a muffled pop, distinctive like a firecracker.”


“Y’all sure it was a gunshot?” she asked.


“Yes, ma’am.”


“No, I hadn’t checked my watch then,” shaking his head at the surly, Asian-looking FBI agent, who now asks a question. “Truthfully, after hearing the first shot, we only blinked at each other, me and Franks. I didn’t think much about it. The second shot is what did it, followed by the whine of an outboard engine racing away. Yes, sir, those two things, back to back, got our attention.”


“After that,” he reengaged the woman agent, “I grabbed the cabin radio to call it in. ‘Two shots and a speeding boat,’ is what I reported.”


Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):






What makes your featured book a must-read?


“Masterful storytelling. The author is able to seamlessly flow between two time periods without any disruption to the flow of the story. This is a style of writing that is simply first rate.” -- N.N. Light’s Book Heaven


“A story of epic proportion… A striking story and a compelling read.” -- Foreword Clarion Reviews


"A rich and complicated story spanning decades and cultures… Sensitive, multidimensional portrayal of Japanese and American viewpoints of the Pacific conflict in WWII." – US Review of Books


"A well-researched, character-driven and lengthy yet powerful read… A must-read historical and mystery/thriller novel." – Pacific Book Review


“A marvellous read.” “It's a great read that is hard to put down once you begin.” “I loved the book.” Amazon customer reviews.


Giveaway –


Enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card:



Open Internationally.


Runs December 5 – December 14, 2023.


Winner will be drawn on December 15, 2023.


Author Biography:


This is Matt Joseph’s first novel. Matt is a retired lawyer from the San Francisco Bay Area, now living in Missoula, Montana.

1 Comment

N. N. Light
N. N. Light
Dec 12, 2023

Thank you, Matt, for sharing your book in our Indie Reads Bookish Event!

bottom of page