The Concubine's Tattoo (Sano Ichiro Series #4)

( 18 )

Overview

Twenty months spent as the shogun's sosakan-sama—most honorable investigator of events, situations, and people—has left Sano Ichiro weary. He looks forward to the comforts that his arranged marriage promises: a private life with a sweet, submissive wife and a month's holiday to celebrate their union. However, the death of the shogun's favorite concubine interrupts the couple's wedding ceremony and shatters any hopes the samurai detective had about enjoying a little peace with ...

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The Concubine's Tattoo (Sano Ichiro Series #4)

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Overview

Twenty months spent as the shogun's sosakan-sama—most honorable investigator of events, situations, and people—has left Sano Ichiro weary. He looks forward to the comforts that his arranged marriage promises: a private life with a sweet, submissive wife and a month's holiday to celebrate their union. However, the death of the shogun's favorite concubine interrupts the couple's wedding ceremony and shatters any hopes the samurai detective had about enjoying a little peace with his new wife.

After Sano traces the cause of Lady Harume's death to a self-inflicted tattoo, he must travel into the cloistered, forbidden world of the shogun's women to untangle the complicated web of Harume's lovers, rivals, and troubled past, and identify her killer. To make matters worse, Reiko, his beautiful young bride, reveals herself to be not a traditional, obedient wife, but instead, a headstrong, intelligent, aspiring detective bent on helping Sano with his new case. Sano is horrified at her unladylike behavior, and the resulting sparks make their budding love as exciting as they mystery surrounding Lady Harume's death. Amid the heightened tensions and political machinations of feudal Japan, Sano faces a daunting complex investigation.

As subtle as the finest lacquered screen, as powerful as the slash of a sword, Laura Joh Rowland's The Concubine's Tattoo vividly brings to life a story of murder, jealousy, sexual intrigue, and political storms that keeps is in its spell until the final, shattering scene.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Rowland] expertly invokes an exotic world—in its difference and brooding darkness—that can be confused with no other."—The Times-Picayune

"Rowland has a painter's eye for the minutiae of court life, as well as a politician's ear for intrigue, so the sleuthing is conducted amid sumptuous scene of imperial excess and under the watch of imperious villains."—The New York Times Book Review

Marilyn Stasio
Although some characters get lost in this panopoly of settings...everyone (especially those who are not to be trusted) is beautifully dressed. —The New York Times Book Review
Washington Times
An appealing character in a fascinating setting in a book enhanced by creative plotting and highly professional writing.
Washington Post Book World
Rowland is a sturdy, persuasive storyteller, and will worth keeping an eye on.
Wash. Post Book World
Rowland is a sturdypersuasive storytellerand will worth keeping an eye on.
New York Times Book Review
Rowland has a painter's eye for the minutiae of court life, as well as a politician's ear for intrigue, so the sleuthing is conducted amid sumptuous scenes of imperial excess and under the watch of imperious villians.
Library Journal
When a 17th-century shogun's favorite concubine suddenly dies, it falls to his chief investigator, Sano Ichiro, to discover how and why. Sano must interrupt his plans for a honeymoon; contend with an educated, wayward, and sleuthing wife; foil the wily machinations of his evil arch-nemesis (second-in-command to and longtime lover of the shogun); and still keep peace with his pusillanimous employer. A fascinating, well-researched, and action-filled costume adventure, perhaps even better than Rowland's The Way of the Traitor.
Marilyn Stasio
Although some characters get lost in this panopoly of settings...everyone (especially those who are not to be trusted) is beautifully dressed.
-- The New York Times Book Review
Washington Times
An appealing character in a fascinating setting in a book enhanced by creative plotting and highly professional writing.
Wash. Post Book World
Rowland is a sturdy, persuasive storyteller, and will worth keeping an eye on.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312969226
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2000
  • Series: Sano Ichiro Series , #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 376
  • Sales rank: 601,839
  • Product dimensions: 6.78 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

LAURA JOH ROWLAND is the author of the Sano Ichiro mysteries, which have twice been named Best Mysteries of the Year by Publishers Weekly. She lived through a natural disaster when Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed her house in New Orleans, and now lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

A richly crafted novel set in seventeenth century Japan, The Concubine's Tatoo unfolds with all the excitement of a superb mystery and a sweeping, sensuous portrait of an exotic land.
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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter One

Edo
Genroku Period,
Year 3, Month 9
(Tokyo, October 1690)

"It is my privilege to open this ceremony in which Sosakan Sano Ichiro and Lady Ueda Reiko shall be united in marriage before the gods." Pudgy, nearsighted Noguchi Motoori--Sano's former superior and the go-between who had arranged the match--solemnly addressed the assembly gathered in Edo Castle's private reception hall.

On this warm autumn morning, sliding doors stood open to a garden resplendent with scarlet maple leaves and brilliant blue sky. Two priests, clad in white robes and tall black caps, knelt at the front of the hall before the alcove, in which hung a scroll bearing the names of the kami--Shinto deities. Below this, a dais held the traditional offerings of round rice cakes and a ceramic jar of consecrated sake. Two maidens, wearing the hooded cloaks of Shinto shrine attendants, stood near the priests. On the tatami to the left of the alcove knelt the bride's father and closest associates: stout, dignified Magistrate Ueda and a few relatives and friends. To the right, the groom's party consisted of Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Japan's supreme military dictator, dressed in brocade robes and the cylindrical black cap of his rank, attended by several high officials; Sano's frail, elderly mother; and Hirata, Sano's chief retainer. All eyes turned to the center of the hall, the focus of the ceremony.

Sano and Reiko knelt side by side before two small tables--he in black ceremonial robes stamped with his family's gold flying-crane crest, his two swords at his waist; she in a white silk kimono and a long, white silk drape that completely covered her face and hair. They faced a flat porcelain dish containing a miniature pine and plum tree, a bamboo grove, the statues of a hare and a crane: symbols of longevity, pliancy, and fidelity. Behind them, Noguchi and his wife knelt at a table reserved for the go-between. As the priests stood and bowed to the altar, Sano's heart pounded. His stoic dignity hid a turmoil of emotion.

The last two years had brought him continuous upheaval: the death of his beloved father; the move from his modest family home in the Nihonbashi merchant district to Edo Castle, Japan's seat of power; a dizzyingly rapid rise in status and all the associated challenges. At times he feared his mind and body couldn't withstand the relentless onslaught of change. Now he was marrying a twenty-year-old girl he'd met exactly once before, more than a year ago, at the formal meeting between their two families. Her lineage was impeccable, her father one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Edo. But they'd never spoken; he knew nothing of her character. He barely remembered what she looked like, and wouldn't see her face again until the end of the ceremony. To Sano, the tradition of arranged marriage now seemed like sheer madness--a potentially disastrous pairing of strangers. What perilous turn had his fate taken? Was it too late to escape?

From her tiny bedchamber in the Edo Castle women's quarters, the shogun's newest concubine heard hurrying footsteps, slamming doors, and shrill feminine voices. The dressing rooms would be littered with opulent silk kimonos and spilt face powder, the servants rushing to finish dressing the two hundred concubines and their attendants for the sosakan-sama's wedding feast. But Harume, weary of the suffocating presence of so many other women after only eight months at the castle, had decided to skip the celebration. Privacy was almost nonexistent in the crowded women's quarters, but now her chambermates were gone, the palace officials busy. The shogun's mother, whom Harume attended, hadn't required her services today. No one would miss her, she hoped--because Harume meant to take full advantage of her rare solitude.

She latched the door, then closed the shutters. On a low table she lit oil lamps and incense burners. The flickering flames cast her shadow against the mullioned paper walls; the incense smoked, sweetly pungent. A hushed, secretive atmosphere permeated the room. Harume's pulse quickened with a dark excitement. She set a rectangular black lacquer box, its lid inlaid with gold irises, and a porcelain sake decanter and two cups on the table. Her movements were slow and graceful, befitting a sacred ritual. Then she tiptoed to the door and listened.

The noise had diminished; the other women must have finished dressing and started toward the banquet hall. Harume returned to the altar she'd created. With eagerness rising in her breast, she pushed back her glossy, waist-length black hair. She loosened her sash and parted the skirts of her red silk dressing gown. She knelt, naked from the waist down.

She contemplated herself with pride. At age eighteen, she was as ripe of flesh as a mature woman, yet with youth's fresh radiance. Flawless ivory skin covered her firm thighs, her rounded hips and stomach. With her fingertips Harume stroked the silky triangle of pubic hair. She smiled, remembering his hand there, his mouth against her throat, their shared rapture. She reveled in her eternal love for him, which she would now prove beyond any possible doubt.

One of the priests swished a long wand tasseled with white paper strips, crying, "Evil out, fortune in! Whoosh! Whoosh!" to purify the room. Then he chanted an invocation to the Shinto gods Izanagi and Izanami, revered procreators of the universe.

Hearing the familiar words, Sano relaxed. The timeless ceremony lifted him above doubt and fear; anticipation soared in him. No matter the risks, he wanted this marriage. At the advanced age of thirty-one, he was at last ready to make the decisive step into official adulthood, to take his place in society as the head of his own family. And he was ready for a change in his life.

His twenty months as the shogun's sosakan-sama -- most honorable investigator of events, situations, and people -- had been a nonstop cycle of criminal cases, treasure hunts, and spying assignments, culminating in a near-catastrophic trip to Nagasaki. There he had investigated the murder of a Dutch trader -- and been shot, almost burned to death, charged with treason, and nearly executed before clearing himself. He'd returned to Edo seven days ago, and while he hadn't lost his desire to pursue truth and deliver criminals to justice, he was tired. Tired of violence, death, and corruption. The aftermath of a tragic love affair the previous year had left him lonely and emotionally drained.

Now, however, Sano looked forward to a respite from the rigors of his work. The shogun had granted him a month's holiday. After a yearlong betrothal, Sano welcomed the prospect of a private life with a sweet, compliant wife who would provide a haven from the outside world. He yearned for children, especially a son who would carry on his name and inherit his position. This ceremony was not just a social rite of passage, but a gateway to everything Sano wanted. The second priest played a series of high-pitched, wailing notes on a flute, while the first beat a sonorous accompaniment on a wooden drum. Now came the most solemn, sacred part of the wedding ritual. The music ceased. One attendant poured the consecrated sake into a long-handled brass ewer and brought it to Sano and Reiko. The other attendant set before them a tray containing three flat wooden cups, graduated in size, nested together. From the ewer, the attendants filled the first, smallest cup, bowed, and handed it to the bride. The assembly waited in hushed expectation.

Harume opened the lacquer box and took out a long, straight razor with a gleaming steel blade, a pearl-handled knife, and a small, square black lacquer jar with her name painted in gold on the stopper. As she arranged these objects before her, a tremor of fear fluttered in Harume's throat. She dreaded pain, hated blood. Would someone interrupt this ceremony--or worse, discover her secret, forbidden liaison? Dangerous intrigues shadowed her life, and there were people who might wish to see her disgraced and banished from the castle. But love demanded sacrifice and necessitated risk. With unsteady hands she poured sake into the two cups: one for herself; a ritual one for her absent lover. She lifted her cup and swallowed the drink. Her eyes watered; her throat burned. But the potent liquor enflamed her courage and determination. She picked up the razor.

With careful strokes Harume shaved bare her pubic area, brushing the cut black strands onto the floor. Then she set aside the razor and lifted the knife.

Reiko, her face still concealed beneath the white headdress, lifted the sake cup to her lips and drank. The process was repeated three times. Then the attendants refilled the cup and passed it to Sano. He drank his three drafts, imagining that he felt the transient warmth of his bride's dainty fingers on the polished wood and tasted the sweetness of her lip rouge on the rim: their first, albeit indirect, touch.

Would their marriage be, as he hoped, a union of kindred souls as well as sensual satisfaction?

A collective sigh passed through the assembly. The san-san-ku-do-- the "three-times-three-sips" pledge that sealed the marriage bond-- never failed to arouse poignant emotion. Sano's own eyes burned with unshed tears; he wondered if Reiko shared his hopes.

The attendant set aside the cup and filled the second one. This time Sano drank first, three times, then Reiko did. After the third, largest cup was passed and the liquor sipped, the flute and drum music resumed. Joy nearly overwhelmed Sano. He and Reiko were now joined in wedlock. Soon he would see her face again...

Touching the knife's sharp blade to her tender, shaved skin, Harume flinched at the coldness of the steel. Her heart thudded; her hand trembled. She put the knife down and took another drink. Then, closing her eyes, Harume summoned the image of her lover, the memory of his caresses. The incense smoke steeped her lungs in the scent of jasmine. Ardor flooded her with daring. When she opened her eyes, her body was still, her mind calm. She took up the knife again. On her pubis she slowly cut the first stroke, just above the cleft of her womanhood.

Crimson blood welled. Harume let out a sharp hiss of pain; tears stung her eyes. But she wiped away the blood with the end of her sash, took another drink, and cut the next stroke. More pain; more blood. Eleven more strokes, and Harume sighed in relief. The worst part was done. Now for the step that would bind her irrevocably to her lover.

Harume opened the lacquer jar. The stopper was fitted with a bamboo-handled brush, its soft bristles saturated with gleaming black ink. Carefully she brushed the ink onto the cuts, enjoying its cool wetness, balm to her pain. With her bloody sash she blotted up the excess ink and stoppered the bottle. Then, sipping more sake, she admired her work.

The complete tattoo, the size of her thumbnail, etched in black lines, now adorned her private place: an indelible expression of fidelity and devotion. Until the hair grew back, she hoped she could keep herself covered, hiding her secret from the other concubines, the palace officials, the shogun. But even after the tattoo was safely obscured, she would know it was there. As would he. They would treasure this symbol of the only marriage they would ever celebrate. Harume poured herself another cup of sake, a private toast to eternal love.

But when she drank, she couldn't swallow; the sake leaked from her mouth, running down her chin. A strange tingling began in Harume's lips and tongue; her throat felt strangely thick and numb, as if packed with cotton. An eerie, cold sensation crept across her skin. Dizziness washed over her. The room spun; the lamp flames, unnaturally bright, whirled before her eyes. Frightened, she dropped the cup. What was happening to her?

Sudden nausea gripped Harume. Doubling over, hands pressed against her stomach, she retched. Hot, sour vomit clogged her throat, shot up her nose, and spewed onto the floor. She wheezed and coughed, unable to get enough air. In a panic, Harume rose and started for the door. But the muscles of her legs had gone weak; she stumbled, scattering incense burners, razor, knife, and ink bottle. Lurching and limping, all the while struggling to breathe, Harume managed to reach the door and open it. A hoarse cry burst from her numb lips.

"Help!"

The corridor was empty. Clutching her throat, Harume staggered in the direction of voices that sounded distorted and far away. Ceiling lanterns burned as bright as suns, blinding her. She grabbed the walls for support. Through a haze of dizzy nausea, Harume saw winged black shapes pursuing her. Claws snatched at her hair. High-pitched shrieks echoed in her ears.

Demons!

Now the attendants served sake to Sano's mother and Magistrate Ueda, honoring the new allegiance between the two families, then passed cups of liquor to the assembly, which proclaimed in unison, "Omedeto gozaimasu--congratulations!"

Sano saw happy faces turned toward him and Reiko. His mother's loving gaze warmed him. Hirata passed a self-conscious hand over the black stubble on his head--shaved during their Nagasaki investigation-- and beamed. Magistrate Ueda nodded in dignified approval; the shogun grinned.

From the table before him, Sano picked up the ceremonial document and read in an unsteady voice, "We have now become united as husband and wife for all eternity. We vow to execute our marital duties faithfully and spend all the days of our lives together in never-ending trust and affection. Sano Ichiro, the twentieth day of the ninth month, Genroku year three."

Then Reiko read from her identical document. Her voice was high, clear, and melodic. This was the first time Sano had ever heard it. What would they talk about, alone together, tonight?

The attendants handed Sano and Reiko branches of saka tree with white paper strips attached, leading the couple to the alcove to make a traditional wedding offering to the gods. Small and slender, Reiko barely came up to Sano's shoulder. Her long sleeves and hem trailed on the floor. Together they bowed and laid the branches on the altar. The attendants bowed twice to the altar, then clapped their hands twice. The assembly followed suit.

"The ceremony is successfully completed," announced the priest who had performed the invocation. "Now the bride and groom can begin to build a harmonious home."

Pursued by the demons, Harume somehow found her way through the winding passages of the women's quarters, to the door leading to the main palace. There stood the castle ladies, dressed in bright, colorful kimonos, attended by servants and a few male guards. Harume's strength was fading. Wheezing and choking, she crashed to the floor.

In a loud rustle of silk garments, the crowd turned. A flurry of exclamations arose: "It's Lady Harume!" "What's wrong with her?" "There's blood all over her mouth!"

Now a shifting collage of shocked, frightened faces hovered over Harume. Ugly purple blotches obscured the familiar features of these women she knew. Noses elongated; eyes burned; fanged mouths leered. Black wings sprouted from shoulders, fanning the air. Silk garments became the lurid plumage of monster birds. Claws reached out to grab.

"Demons," Harume gasped. "Don't come any closer. No!"

Strong hands seized her. Authoritative male voices gave orders. "She's ill. Get a doctor." "Don't let her disrupt the sosakan-sama's wedding." "Take her to her room."

Panic infused strength into Harume's muscles. As she kicked and thrashed and gasped for breath, her voice burst from her in a scream of terror: "Help! Demons! Don't let them kill me!"

"She's mad. Stay back--out of the way! She's violent."

Down the corridor they carried her, trailed by the screeching, flapping horde. Harume struggled to free herself. Her captors finally set her down, pinning her arms and legs. She was trapped. The demons would rip her to shreds, then devour her.

Yet even as these fearsome thoughts flashed through Harume's mind, a more terrifying power gathered within her body. A gigantic convulsion surged through bone, muscle, and nerve; stretched sinews; drew invisible chains tight around internal organs. Harume screamed in agony as her back arched and her stiff limbs shot out. In a cacophony of shrieks, the demons let go, thrown off by the force of her involuntary movements. A second, stronger convulsion, and darkness seeped across her vision. External sensations receded; she couldn't see the demons or hear their voices. The wild, erratic pounding of her own heart filled her ears. Another convulsion. Mouth open wide, Harume couldn't draw another breath. Her final thought was of her lover: With a grief as agonizing as the pain, she knew she would never see him again in this life. Then one last gasp. One more unspoken plea:

Help...

Then nothingness.

Sano barely heard the assembly's murmured blessings, because the attendants were lifting the white drape away from his new wife's head. She was turning toward him...

Looking even younger than her twenty years, Reiko had a perfect oval face with a delicate chin and nose. Her eyes, like bright, black flower petals, shone with somber innocence. On her high, shaved brow arched the fine lines of painted eyebrows. White rice powder covered smooth, perfect skin, contrasting with the satiny black hair that fell from a center part all the way to her knees. Her beauty took Sano's breath away. Then Reiko smiled at him--the merest shy curving of dainty red lips before she demurely lowered her gaze. Sano's heart clenched with a fierce, possessive tenderness as he smiled back. She was everything he wanted. Their life together would be sheer conjugal bliss, which would begin as soon as the public formalities ended.

The assembly stood as the attendants escorted Sano and Reiko from the altar to their families. Sano bowed to Magistrate Ueda and thanked him for the honor of joining the clan, while Reiko did the same to Sano's mother. Together they thanked the shogun for his patronage, and the guests for coming. Then, after many more congratulations, thanks, and blessings, the party, led by the shogun, moved through the carved doors and down the wide corridor toward the hall where the wedding banquet would take place and more guests waited.

Suddenly, from deep within the castle's interior, came loud, high- pitched screams, then the sound of running footsteps. The shogun paused, halting the procession.

"What is that noise?" he asked, his aristocratic features darkening in annoyance. To his officials, he said, "Go and, ahh, determine the cause, and put a stop to--"

Down the corridor toward the wedding party stampeded hundreds of shrieking women, some dressed in brilliant silk robes, others wearing the plain cotton kimonos of servants, all holding their sleeves over their noses and mouths, eyes wide with terror. Palace officials stormed after them, shouting commands and trying to restore order, but the women paid no heed.

"Let us out!" they cried, shoving the bridal procession up against the wall as they rushed past.

"How dare these females treat me in this disrespectful manner?" Tokugawa Tsunayoshi wailed. "Has everyone gone mad? Guards--stop them!"

Magistrate Ueda and the attendants shielded Reiko from the mob, which quickly expanded to include panicky guests pouring out of the banquet hall. They crashed into Sano's mother; he caught her before she fell.

"We're all doomed if we don't run!" shrilled the women.

Now an army of guards appeared. They herded the hysterical women back to the castle interior. The wedding party and guests clustered in the banquet hall, where tables and cushions had been arranged on the floor, a troupe of frightened musicians clutched their instruments, and maids waited to serve the feast.

"What is the meaning of this?" The shogun straightened his tall black cap, knocked atilt in the scuffle. "I, ahh, demand an explanation!"

The guard commander bowed to Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. "My apologies, Your Excellency, but there's been a disturbance in the women's quarters. Your concubine Lady Harume just died."

The chief castle physician, dressed in the dark blue coat of his profession, added, "Her death was caused by a sudden violent illness. The other ladies fled in panic, fearing contagion."

Murmurs of dismay rose from the assembly. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi gasped. "Contagion?" His face paled, and he covered his nose and mouth with both hands to keep the spirit of disease from entering. "Do you mean to say there is an, ahh, epidemic in the castle?" A dictator of delicate health and with little talent for leadership, he turned to Sano and Magistrate Ueda, the men present who ranked next below him in status. "What is to be done?"

"The nuptial festivities must be canceled," Magistrate Ueda said with regret, "and the guests sent home. I will see to the arrangements."

Sano, though shocked by this calamitous end to his wedding, hastened to his lord's aid. Contagious disease was a serious concern in Edo Castle, which housed hundreds of Japan's highest-ranking officials and their families. "In case there really is an epidemic, the ladies must be quarantined to prevent its spread." Sano instructed the guard commander to manage this, and told the castle physician to examine the women for symptoms. "And you, Your Excellency, should stay in your chambers to avoid illness."

"Ahh, yes, of course," said Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, obviously relieved to have someone else take charge. Hurrying in the direction of his private suite, the shogun summoned the officials to follow, while shouting orders to Sano: "You must personally investigate Lady Harume's death at once!" In his fear for himself, he seemed indifferent to the loss of his concubine and the fate of his other women. And he'd apparently forgotten all about Sano's promised holiday. "You must prevent the evil spirit of disease from reaching me. Now go!"

"Yes, Your Excellency," Sano called after the retreating despot and his entourage.

Hirata hurried to join him. As they started down the corridor toward the women's quarters, Sano looked over his shoulder and saw Reiko, white bridal gown trailing behind her, being escorted out by her father and attendants. He felt extreme annoyance at the shogun for reneging on his promise, and regret for the delayed wedding celebrations, both public and private. Had he not earned a little peace and happiness? Then Sano suppressed a sigh. Obedience to his lord was a samurai's highest virtue. Duty prevailed; once again, death commanded Sano's attentions. Marital bliss would have to wait.

The Concubine's Tattoo. Copyright (c) 1998 by Laura Joh Rowland. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2000

    mesmerizing,passionate !!

    passionate love story not one but many in tangled in this complicated mystery.you'll want to join in on the many investigations. i want to have the strength of reiko and the loyalty of sano. loved every word. beautifully written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2000

    Don't miss this one!

    Fans of Investigator Sano Ichiro don't miss this latest installment! Mystery fans who haven't read Laura Rowland's work before, be prepared for a treat. It is an engrossing tale that transports you into the heart of Tokugawa Japan.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2014

    I love this book so much it's ridiculous! 

    I love this book so much it's ridiculous! 

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Expected Better

    I couldn't even last through the first 3 chapters of this book. It's horrible.... The idea is really dumb from my perspective, the main character is so in love with his new wife (that he hasn't seen yet), that when he finds out that his concubine is dead he doesn't react like a normal human being (at least in his thoughts). The guy was sleeping with the woman and he doesn't react in anyway except that his wedding day is ruined and that he won't hump his wife for another day....WOW!!!!! There's a lot of rollercoaster of emotions going on there.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2008

    Fantastic!!!

    A good while back, this was the first book I ever read in the series - and it got me hooked on it, along with my brother. The attention to detail and character is amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2005

    Captivating

    I loved this book. This was the 2nd book of her series that I read. It has an amazing plot and extrodinary charaters! I highly reccomend this series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2003

    Married with issues

    I liked this one better than the third book. Sano is back home and getting married. Of course as soon as he is married he is called to investigate the death of one of the Shogun's concubines. I like this story. Rowland expands the characters of Sano and his sidekick Hirata, she also adds the character of Reiko as his non-submissive, untraditional wife. The addition of other characters in Sano's inner circle and adding depth to them adds to the story. The same adding of characters also threatens to take away from the overall series because along with Reiko other characters are also added. You can see the possibility of having too many characters coming into a story and making it more confusing or convoluted. But for this book it works. I give it a B on the StuPage.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2001

    Love it, really kept my interest.

    This was the first time to read one of her books. I loved the amount of detail she put into the book. I felt like i was in Japan. I believe I learned all about a Japanese culture. I can't wait to read the next one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2001

    4 star novel from 5 star author

    I've read all of Rowland's novels, but I didn't find this one up to her usual caliber. However, I still wait for her next with great anticipation.

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