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YA‘Sano Ichiro suspects that a ritual love suicide (shinju) is in reality a double murder, but his boss inexplicably orders him to drop the investigation. As samurai, Sano must obey or dishonor his father. The quest for justice, however, impels him to risk all to uncover the truth. His course causes more deaths and reveals the depravity of a powerful family that plots to assassinate the shogun. Sano is an unlikely, headstrong hero whose talk and stumbling actions endanger others. His repeated weighing of the samurai code of loyalty and duty versus the pursuit of justice slows the plot occasionally, but not seriously. The descriptions of the lives of townspeople, samurai, the privileged class, and inhabitants of the ``pleasure district'' in 17th-century Edo (Tokyo) are brutal, but rich and sensual, especially the Tea Ceremony and New Year celebrations. YAs who liked James Clavell's Shogun will enjoy Rowland's novel of political intrigue.‘Judy Sokoll, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Seventeenth-century Tokyo is the setting for Rowland's debut novel, a murder mystery starring the Senior Police Commander in the district of Edo. Sano Ichiro, a samurai whose academic background puts him at odds with most of his peers, discovers two bodies in the Sumida River, a man and woman bound together in what appears to have been a shinju, or ``double love suicide.'' The man is a peasant, the woman the high-born daughter of an important official. Told by his superior to close the case without an investigation, Sano, suspecting murder, determines to investigate on his own. He orders an illegal autopsy and learns that the victims did not drown but cannot make his discovery known. Amidst many tribulations, he uncovers a trail of corruption and intrigue that ultimately leads him to suspect a member of a royal family. Replete with convincing details, the setting's time and place provide lively and diverting passages; the plot, however, twists only occasionally before its fairly predictable, politically rooted resolution. Rowland crafts a competent mystery her first time out, shows sure command of her background material and demonstrates that she is a writer of depth and potential. (Oct.)
Rowland has hit it big with this first novel, a mystery set in 16th-century Tokyo. Not only did Random House win world rights for this work and its sequel in a bidding auction with two other New York houses, but the deal was reported in the New York Times (July 28, 1993).
"Nearly impossible to put down." --"The Washington Post Book World" "An exotic and beguiling mystery story: a tour de force of imagination." --Robert Harris, author of "Fatherland""Intriguing...an interesting...exciting tale."--"The New York Times Book Review""An unusual and exotic mystery."--"San Diego Union-Tribune