Laura Joh Rowland, Author . St. Martin's Minotaur $24.95 (326p) ISBN 978-0-312-31889-5

In Rowland's ninth absorbing historical set in 17th-century Japan (after 2003's The Dragon King's Palace ), Sano Ichiro, the shogun's special criminal investigator, must once again navigate treacherous political waters to solve a puzzling murder. Sano finds himself retained by a corpse when the valet of one of the country's leading figures, councilman Makino Narisada, delivers a posthumous request from his master. Narisada asks Sano to examine the circumstances of his own death. At first it seems that the elderly official succumbed to natural causes, but several clues point to foul play. While the initial suspects from the victim's household all appear to be harboring guilty knowledge, the detective's task is rapidly complicated when the two leading political rivals battling to succeed the shogun accuse each other of the murder and pressure Sano to slant his pursuit accordingly. The shadow of events from The Dragon King's Palace hangs heavily over the two main supporting characters, Sano's wife and his chief assistant, driving them to take perilous risks; nonetheless, this is an accessible entry point to the series for newcomers. Deftly combining a classic whodunit with vivid period detail, Rowland raises the stakes for her next book with an unexpected twist at the end that promises to present her dogged but fallible hero with even more difficulties in the future. (Apr. 16)

Reviewed on: 03/01/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Mass Market Paperbound - 370 pages - 978-0-312-99208-8
Open Ebook - 336 pages - 978-1-4299-0849-8
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