The Samurai's Wife

Laura Joh Rowland, Author Thomas Dunne Books $23.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-20325-2
With her fifth mystery set in 17th-century Japan, Rowland (The Concubine's Tattoo, Bundori, etc.) offers a rich historical that is equal parts police procedural and political thriller. The shogun sends his Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations and People, Sano Ichiro, to the ancient court city of Miyako to investigate the murder of imperial minister Konoe Bokuden. Normally such a crime wouldn't concern the shogun, but the victim was a spy who reported on activities among nobles of dubious loyalty. Sano has to solve the murder and diffuse any resulting political tensions, a job that requires delicacy and etiquette--and vigilance. Felled by a rare martial art that can vanquish the most skilled samurai, Bokuden had discovered a secret plot against the shogun involving members of the court, feudal lords, gangsters and ronin. To find the killer and avert civil war, Sano must step on imperial toes and risk both censure from the shogun and the displeasure of Reiko, Sano's spirited young wife. Rowland delineates the class distinctions of her characters with subtlety and pulls together the strands of her multifaceted plot with enviable grace. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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