Bundori (Sano Ichiro Series #2)

Bundori (Sano Ichiro Series #2)

4.0 7
by Laura Joh Rowland

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It is early spring, 1679, and the feudal Japanese capital, Edo, is beginning to blossom. But along its peaceful, misty streets evil lurks. With one stroke, the favored vassal of the ruling family is decapitated, his head taken for a bundori — a war trophy.
Sano Ichiro, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People, is

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It is early spring, 1679, and the feudal Japanese capital, Edo, is beginning to blossom. But along its peaceful, misty streets evil lurks. With one stroke, the favored vassal of the ruling family is decapitated, his head taken for a bundori — a war trophy.
Sano Ichiro, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People, is called to find the culprit. In a city where danger and deceit lie just below the lush surface, Sano must rely on his mind, his instincts, and his noble training in Bushido — the Way of the Warrior — to solve this case that could bring him glory...or everlasting shame. Set against a backdrop of sumptuous castles, tawdry pleasure districts, and serene temples, and filled with unforgettable, rich characters, Bundori is breathtaking entertainment.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Brutal murders linked to an ancient betrayal send late 17th-century Tokyo into a panic. They also spell big trouble for the Shogun's special investigator, Sano Ichiro, in this sequel to Rowland's well-received first novel, Shinju. The killings are made known when the severed heads of the victims are put on public display, in the manner of an ancient custom known as bundori, or war trophy. The victims are descendants of warriors who, more than a century earlier, were involved in the murder of a powerful warlord. As the killings continue, Sano, though hampered in his investigation by his devotion to the warrior-code of bushido and its precepts of silent obedience and service, suspects three of the most powerful men in the Shogunate, including Chamberlain Yanagisawa. Also complicating Sano's quest for the truth is a female ninja in Yanagisawa's power; aiding it are an eager young officer in the Tokyo police and a quirky old morgue attendant. Sano's allegiance to bushido makes him an unexpectedly passive hero, undermining the author's apparent attempt to wed Japanese philosophy to Western mystery-thriller conventions. But the novel reads smoothly and positively smokes with historical atmospherics. (Mar.)
Library Journal
Part historical novel, part detective story, and part romance, Rowland's sequel to Shinju (LJ, 8/94) features, once again, the samurai detective Sano Ichiro, working for the shogun of the city of Edo in Tokugawa-era Japan. Several questionable plot devices effectively remove the novel from the detective genre, but the story is well constructed and compulsively readable. Sano must track down, virtually single-handedly, a serial killer who is at work in the region and whose motivation is complex, related to events of 129 years prior. The detective's job is complicated by court intrigue, increasingly so as his clues point toward suspects of influence. The richness of the historical detail adds enormously to the novel, and the reader comes away with a highly visual sense of life in feudal Japan. An enjoyable light reading experience, recommended for public libraries and popular reading collections.-David Dodd, Univ. of Colorado Libs., Colorado Springs
Kirkus Reviews
A second case for samurai Sano Ichir, elevated to Tokugawa Tsunayoshi's Most Honorable Investigator after his success in Shinju (1994). Someone is killing the citizens of 17th-century Edo and mounting their heads publicly as battle trophies, bundori. Sano's shogun appoints him to find the killer, but the real power behind Tsunayoshi, his Chamberlain Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, makes it plain to Sano (though not to their common lord) that he intends to thwart the investigation at every turn, overriding the shogun's command that the Edo police assist Sano and setting Aoi, the mystic and chief shrine commander, to spy on Sano. Sano, gradually realizing that the sensual Aoi—whom he'd been counting on to pass on to him information she garnered from communicating with the souls of the four victims—is not to be trusted, is caught in an impossible situation, since the stringent code of bushido prevents him from criticizing Yanagisawa as a slur on their shogun's judgment. Acting on information supplied by his friends, chief archivist Noguchi Motoori and Edo Morgue superintendent Dr. Ito Genboku—and by the equivocal Aoi as well—Sano traces the executions to a century- old military intrigue. But what is he to do when his field of suspects is narrowed down to Edo's foremost merchant, the Captain of the Guard, a legendary (and formidably protected) concubine, and the treacherous chamberlain himself?

Not as rich and resourceful as Sano's striking debut—the demands of bushido are asked to carry too much of the interest—but Rowland still masterfully evokes the subtleties and contradictions of 17th-century Japan.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sano Ichiro Series, #2
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.08(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

On the vast, deep pond at Edo Castle's martial arts training ground, Sano Ichiro trod water furiously, trying to stay afloat. The two swords and full suit of armor he wore -- tunic and shoulder flaps made of leather and metal plates, chain-mail arm shields, metal leg guards, helmet, and mask -- threatened to drag him to the bottom. In his left hand he held a bow; in the right, an arrow. His lungs heaved with the effort of keeping these and his head above the water. Around him bobbed other samurai, fellow retainers of the shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, attending this morning's training session to practice the skills they would need in case they ever had to make war in a river, a lake, or at sea. At the pond's other end, more men fought a mock battle on horseback. Their movements churned the pond. A big wave washed over Sano's head. Water, foul with mud and horse droppings, gurgled into his helmet and mask. He gasped, spat, and barely managed to gulp a breath of air before the next wave hit him.

"You, there!" the sensei yelled from the bank of the pond. A long pole rapped sharply upon Sano's helmet. "Body straight, legs down. And keep that arrow dry! Wet feathers don't fly straight!"

Mustering his strength, Sano gamely tried to follow the orders. His legs ached from executing the circular kicks necessary for maintaining an upright position. His left arm, recently wounded in a sword fight, throbbed; the other arm had gone numb. Each painful breath felt like his last. And he was freezing. The uncertain spring weather hadn't warmed away the pond's winter iciness. How much longer would this torturelast? To take his mind off his physical distress, he squinted upward at his surroundings.

Man-shaped straw archery targets dotted the grassy space beside the pond. To Sano's right loomed the dark green pines of the Fukiage, the forested park that occupied the castle's western grounds and surrounded the training area. On his left, he could see the stands of the racecourse, from which came shouts, cheers, and hoofbeats. In the distance directly ahead of him rose the high stone wall that surrounded the inner castle precincts, where the shogun, his family, and his closest associates lived and worked in luxurious palaces.

Sano kicked harder to raise himself an infinitesimal distance higher above water level. The brilliant sunlight made dazzling jewels of the droplets that sprayed his eyes. He blinked them away and tilted his head back to look up at the castle keep: five splendid stories of whitewashed walls and multiple gleaming tiled roofs and gables that soared against the blue sky. A visible symbol of the complete and overwhelming Tokugawa military power, Edo Castle filled Sano with awe. After two months of living within its walls, he still couldn't believe that it was home to him now. Even less could he believe in the fantastic series of events that had brought him here.

The son of a ronin -- a masterless samurai -- he'd earned his living as an instructor in his father's martial arts academy, supplementing his family's meager income by teaching reading and writing to young boys. Then, just three months ago, through family connections, he'd attained the position of yoriki, one of Edo's fifty senior police commanders. He'd lost that position, suffered disgrace, dishonor, and physical agony, solved a puzzling murder case, saved the shogun's life -- and ended up as Tokugawa Tsunayoshi's sosakan-sama: Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People.

The appointment was an undreamed-of honor, but Sano's move to the castle had created an enormous upheaval in his life. Cut off from everything and everyone he knew, he'd found himself adrift in a strange landscape filled with unfamiliar faces, swamped by new and confusing regulations and rituals. The training pond wasn't the only place where he had to struggle to keep his head above water. But the changes in his life hadn't stopped there. His father, whose health had been poor for many years, had died just fifteen days after Sano had left his family's house. With a sorrow still fresh and raw, Sano remembered his father's passing.

Kneeling before his father's bed, he'd pressed the old man's withered hand to his chest. Through the grief that swelled his throat, he tried to express the love and esteem he felt for his father, but the latter had shaken his head, demanding silence. "My son...promise..." The cracked voice faded to a whisper, and Sano leaned closer to hear. "Promise me that...you will serve your master well. Be the living embodiment...of Bushido...."

Bushido: the Way of the Warrior. The strict code of duty, honor, and obedience that defined a samurai's behavior, during battle and in peacetime, which he mastered not once and for all, but through confronting the innumerable challenges it presented throughout his life.

"Yes, Father, I promise," Sano said. At whatever cost to himself, he would strive to mold his independent, unruly spirit to Bushido's tenets. This deathbed promisewas the most serious obligation he'd ever owed his father; it must be fulfilled. "Please rest now."

With another shake of his head, his father continued. "The aim of a samurai...is to perform some great deed of bravery or loyalty that..." He took several slow, painful breaths. "That will astonish both friend and foe alike, make his lord regret his death, and..." A coughmg spell stopped him.

"And leave behind a great name to be remembered for generations to come,"Sano finished for him. The lesson had taught him in childhood, indoctrinating him with this philosophy, which had evolved over the course of six hundred years.


Bundori. Copyright © by Laura Joh Rowland. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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