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Japan, 1704. In an elegant mansion a young woman named Tsuruhime lies on her deathbed, attended by her nurse. Smallpox pustules cover her face. Incense burns, to banish the evil spirits of disease. After Tsuruhime takes her last breath, the old woman watching from the doorway says, “Who’s going to tell the Shogun his daughter is dead?”
The death of the Shogun's daughter has immediate consequences on his regime. There will be no grandchild to leave the kingdom. Faced with his own mortality and beset by troubles caused by the recent earthquake, he names as his heir Yoshisato, the seventeen-year-old son he only recently discovered was his. Until five months ago, Yoshisato was raised as the illegitimate son of Yanagisawa, the shogun's favorite advisor. Yanagisawa is also the longtime enemy of Sano Ichiro.
Sano doubts that Yoshisato is really the Shogun's son, believing it's more likely a power-play by Yanagisawa. When Sano learns that Tsuruhime's death may have been a murder, he sets off on a dangerous investigation that leads to more death and destruction as he struggles to keep his pregnant wife, Reiko, and his son safe. Instead, he and his family become the accused. And this time, they may not survive the day.
Laura Joh Rowland's thrilling series set in Feudal Japan is as gripping and entertaining as ever.
Lets start with the fact that I am a cover snob, I freely admit that, it's just one of my hangups. I have almost missed out on a number of good books just because I didn't like the cover. The cover for this book I love, especially that little window in the eye, adds a little mysterious element to it.
This is the 17th book in the Sano Ichiro series by Laura Joh Rowland (a new to me author). It does work as a standalone, but there were times that I would have liked to know more of the history on some the conflicts in this book, especially between Sano and Yanagisawa. Taking place in Edo, ancient Tokyo, I found it to be a very interesting mystery/murder/who dunnit, with a touch of the supernatural. The story played out nicely and had me guessing right to the end. The ending was not neat and tidy which I think will just lead into the next installment. The characters were interesting enough, but I didn't really bond or connect with anyone in particular, maybe if I had read the entire series I would have, but I still found the book entertaining. It was an easy and quick read, very straight forward dialogue, a little more emotion or depth would have been nice. There is one scene that stands out for me, it involved a fire and the search for missing persons. It was written in such a way that I could almost smell the fire and feel the emotions of those in that scene and I think if more of the book was written with that kind of description and feeling it would have benefited the storyline.
One of the things that I did not like was the placing of the author's notes. I don't know if it was just in the copy that I was given (ebook) or whether it was different in the purchased book and corrected in ebooks or not. But the author's notes were at the beginning of the book, once read it was a major spoiler and I was somewhat disappointed that I read it.
Praise for Laura Joh Rowland
Author of The Fire Kimono, “one of the five best historical mystery novels”—The Wall Street Journal
“Rowland has a painter’s eye for the minutiae of court life, as well as a politician’s ear for intrigue.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Sano may carry a sword and wear a kimono, but you’ll immediately recognize him as an ancestor of Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade.”—The Denver Post
For more information please visit Laura's website. You can also follow her on Facebook.