St. Martin's, Apr 2004, 24.95
In 1694 Edo, violence explodes between supporters of the shogun's cousin Lord Matsudaira and followers of the shogun's second-in-command Chamberlain Yanagisawa as both side lay claim as the successor. This leads to the death of elderly councilman Makino Narisada though his demise seems of natural causes. The deceased's valet asks the shogun's investigator Sano Ichiro, to look into his death.
Sano quickly finds clues that make him reconsider his initial thought of old age as the cause. When the political rivals realize that Sano aided by his capable wife investigates, they quickly blame their opponent of committing murder. Sano still has some lingering doubts that a homicide occurred, but finds that he is caught in the midst of deadly secret alliances as other die too.
Though the murder investigation sometimes takes a back seat to the incredible look at late seventeenth century Japan, historical mystery readers will find Laura Joh Rowland's latest tale fresh and fascinating. Sano remains one of the great protagonists of the last few years as he tries to walk a path in which two super heavyweights try to pull him into their respective side of the power struggle. The support cast enhances insight into the era and the hero more so than the inquiries. Readers who enjoy a deep insightful examination of a bygone period will want to read PERFUMED SLEEVE and the previous novels of this solid series (see The Dragon King's Palace)
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner