The Way of the Traitor (Sano Ichiro Series #3)

The Way of the Traitor (Sano Ichiro Series #3)

3.9 15
by Laura Joh Rowland

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A volatile, corrupt city threatened by toreign invasion and ru by an iron-fisted government, Nagasaki is the last place Sano Ichiro wants to be, Unfortunately, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People has been banished there by a wicked adversary in the shogun's court.

Surrounded by spies, Sano must tread carefully. When the


A volatile, corrupt city threatened by toreign invasion and ru by an iron-fisted government, Nagasaki is the last place Sano Ichiro wants to be, Unfortunately, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People has been banished there by a wicked adversary in the shogun's court.

Surrounded by spies, Sano must tread carefully. When the body of a Dutch trader washes ashore, he finds himself leading an investigation that could push Japan into war — even as it thrusts his life into the hands of powerful enemies. Sano has to unmask a killer and prove his innocence, or his samurai head, and maybe his country, will fall.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the port of Nagasaki in the year 1690, the prosperous Japanese power elite is doing quite well from trade, although the arrival of the Dutch makes everyone nervous. To diminish the possibility of attack, the Dutch are confined to a small section of the city and local citizens are told that contact with foreigners is a treasonable offense. Into this poisonous atmosphere steps Samurai Sano Ichiro, the shogun's Most Honourable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People. While gathering information about the disappearance of Jan Spaen, the Dutch Trade Director, the steadfast and competent Sano, last seen in Shinju, believes he's being set up for a fall by a highly placed enemy, a possibility foreshadowed by the beheading of a traitor in the opening pages. When Spaen is found murdered, Sano suspects the murderer is a local, and, even though it means adding to an atmosphere already thick with tension, the Samurai can't let the truth go. He must employ all his skills to maintain balance as tries to bring the killers to justice while saving his own neck, struggles to remain loyal while satisfying his own curiosity about the outside world, and determines if justice is worth the price even as he pays it. As the Dutch declare their insistence that the killer be found by training their ship's guns on the city, Sano's predicament intensifies. The collision of East and West is compelling, but Rowland's bland prose and disappointingly predictable solution ill serve her story's central conflict. (June)
Library Journal
In 1690 Japan, the ruling shogun's jealous chamberlain curtails the power of the shogun's favorite samurai detective, Sano Ichiro, by sending him to faraway Nagasaki. Sano immediately risks life and limb to discover how a Dutch trader escaped confinement and wound up murdered. Since Japanese paranoia decrees isolation of Western "barbarians," strict trade regulation, persecution of Christians, and samurai adherence to code, Sano's investigation is fraught with multitudinous dangers. Anything that can happen doesdeceit, arson, assault, mayhemwith constant action compensating for any lack of subtlety, depth, or originality. Exciting, exotic entertainment from the author of Bundon (LJ 2/1/96).
Kirkus Reviews
Packed off to a routine inspection of remote Nagasaki by a jealous chamberlain bent on curtailing his access to his lord, samurai detective Sano Ichir is hardly off the boat when trouble strikes. Jan Spaen, the Dutch East India Company's missing director of trade, is found dead on a chilly beach, and his restless companions aboard a Dutch ship riding in the harbor have to be pacified while Sano investigates his murder. His superiors on Nagasaki—Governor Nagai and Ohira Yonemon, chief officer of the island compound of Deshima—want to disarm the Dutch, but Sano, made uneasy by the unfair treatment of the foreign barbarians and drawn by his budding friendship with the ship's surgeon, allows them to keep their weapons—a serious mistake, he realizes, when the evidence points to a Japanese killer and the Dutch commander threatens to attack the city, starting a full- scale war, unless Sano brings him the head of the killer within two days. Meantime, though, Sano's unearthed a smuggling ring whose leaders seem to be the city fathers, who promptly frame him for smuggling, arrest him, and remove him from the investigation. Will Sano finally be hamstrung by the conflicting demands of his roles as detective, avenger, diplomat, vassal, and man of honor?

Of course, he won't. But tension rides high as Rowland (Bundori, 1996, etc.) takes every cliché of the One Just Man genre—the civic conspiracy, the prostitute in love, the impossible deadline, the massacre of innocents, the man on the run—and refracts them all through the code of Bushido.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sano Ichiro Series, #3
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Through the desolate streets of nighttime Edo marched Sano Ichiro, the shogun's sosakan-sama — Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People. A storm had cleared the Nihonbashi merchant district of pedestrians. Rain pelted tile roofs, streamed from eaves and balconies, dripped off the brim of Sano's wicker hat, and drenched his cloak and trousers. The moist air saturated his lungs with the odors of wet earth and wood. Beside him walked his chief retainer, Hirata, and behind them ten other samurai detectives from the elite corps Sano led. Their sandaled feet splashed along the narrow, muddy road. Spurning shelter and comfort for the sake of their mission, they forged ahead through the downpour.

“This is the place,” Sano said, halting outside a mansion surrounded by a high stone wall. Black mourning drapery hung over the gate; lanterns inside sent a shimmering glow up into the rainy night. Under the balcony of a shop across the street, Sano and his men gathered to review their strategy for the climax of a long investigation.

Since early spring, a rash of bizarre crimes had plagued Edo. Thieves had been stealing corpses from the homes of the deceased and the sites of accidents, or intercepting coffins on the way to funerals. Ignoring class distinctions, they'd seized dead peasants, merchants, and samurai — nine in all. In addition, eight religious pilgrims had been murdered on highways outside town,with abandoned baggage and fresh blood found at the death scenes, but the victims gone. None of the corpses had been recovered. The crimes had terrified travelers and deprived families of the right to honor theirdead with proper funerary rituals.

Sano, ordered by the shogun to capture the body thieves, had placed agents around town. Disguised as itinerant peddlers, they'd loitered in teahouses, entertainment districts, gambling dens, and other places frequented by the criminal element. This morning an agent had over-heard a servant boast that the thieves had paid him to help steal the body of his dead master, during the funeral vigil tonight. The agent had followed the servant to the home of a rich oil merchant and reported the location to Sano.

“If the thieves come, we follow them,” Sano remindedHirata and his men now. “We have to catch their leader and find out what happens to the corpses.”

The detectives surrounded the merchant's house, while Sano and Hirata hid in a recessed doorway across an alley from the back gate. They waited for a miserable, wet hour, breathing the weather's humid warmth. Still the streets remained silent and deserted. Sano's urgency grew.

The son of a ronin, he'd once earned his living as an instructor in his father's martial arts academy and by tutoring young boys, studying history in his spare time. Family connections had secured him a position as a senior police commander. He'd solved a murder case, saved the shogun's life, and been promoted a year and a half ago to the exalted position of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi's sosakan-sama. By capturing the Bundori Killer, who had terrorized Edo with a series of grisly murders, he'd won the shogun's greater favor. Since then, he'd solved many other cases, seen his income and personal staff grow, and achieved a satisfying sense of professional accomplishment. His socially and financially advantageous marriage to Reiko, daughter of the rich, powerful Magistrate Ueda, would take place in the autumn. Yet a dark cloud shadowed Sano's existence.

He'd grown increasingly disillusioned with the bakufu, a corrupt, oppressive dictatorship. Under its orders, Sano had to spy on citizens who'd criticized government policy or otherwise offended the Tokugawa. Distorted andembellished, his findings were used to discredit honest men, who were then exiled or demoted. And the shogun was no better than the regime he commanded. Tokugawa Tsunayoshi indulged a weakness for religion, the arts, and young boys, while neglecting affairs of state. He also sent Sano on fruitless searches for ghosts, magic potions, and buried treasure. Yet Sano had no choice but to pursue such immoral or ridiculous activities. The shogun commanded his complete loyalty, and his future. And his personal life offered no consolation.

While time and self-discipline had exorcised the worst of his heartbreak over losing Aoi, the woman he loved, he couldn't relinquish her memory. He'd delayed his marriage for more than a year, but not just because it would finalize their separation. He didn't want to become close to anyone again, to risk the pain of hurting — or losing — someone else who mattered to him. Hence, he rejoiced at every assignment that was worthy of his effort and allowed him to postpone the wedding yet again, and to maintain his emotional isolation.

Now Sano raised his head, straining to hear. “Listen!” he said to Hirata.

From up the alley came the sound of brisk footsteps splashing through puddles.

“A palanquin,” Hirata said as the sedan chair, carried by four hooded and cloaked bearers, emerged from the dripping darkness. The bearers laid down their burden at the merchant's gate. They were all samurai, with swords at their waists. The gate opened, and two of the men hurried inside. Soon they reappeared, stowed a long bundle in the palanquin, lifted the sedan chair, and trotted away.

Imitating a dog's bark, Sano signaled his men. He and Hirata followed the palanquin, darting in and out of alleys and doorways, through the rain'srelentless clamor. Shadows moved through the night as the detective corps joined the pursuit. The palanquin led them deeper into Nihonbashi's twisting maze of streets, past closed shops and over canals. Finally it stopped outside one of a row of thatched buildings on the edge of the swordmakers' district. A sign over the door bore a circular crest and the name MIOCHIN. And Sano guessed the fate of the stolen corpses.

The bearers vanished inside the building with...

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

Meet the Author

Laura Joh Rowland is the daughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants. She grew up in Michigan and was educated at the University of Michigan, where she graduated with a B.S. in Microbiology and a Masters in Public Health. She lives in New Orleans with her husband, Marty, and their three cats. She is the author of Shinju, Bundori, The Way of the Traitor, The Concubine's Tattoo, The Samurai's Wife, and Black Lotus, all of which feature the samurai detective Sano Ichiro.

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Way of the Traitor 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The setting and action are fun. The portrayal of Japanese culture and history are compelling. The plot is satisfactory. What prevents this from being a first-rate piece of escapist fiction is the incessant self-doubt and self-depreciation of the supposed hero. It is not only outside of the agreed-upon-suspension of believability but it detracts from the plot to have the shogun's emmissary threatened by every minor official he encounters. It wouldn't be offensive to have him thwarted occasionally by circumstance or high court macinations, but please, let's not have him falsely accused by every character he meets, in a barely-won death battle against every swordsman he fights (he was an instructor -- can't he soundly beat anyone?), and put on trial for obviously stupid reasons. The most frustrating thing about this book is how close it comes to being great without even beinggood.
stampin_joy More than 1 year ago
This book is the third in the series that features Sano Ichiro, the great detective of post-feudal Japan. Sano works under the Emperor in Edo, solving crimes of the state, espionage and murder. In this book, Sano is sent to Nagaski by his wicked rival in the emperor's court. Of course, when he gets to the city, a most terrible murder has taken place. Unfortunately, for the Japanese in Nagasaki, it is the death of a Dutch trader. Sano must solve the case before war breaks out between the two countries. This book is a great read for the mystery, plot twists and always for the surprise "who done it" ending. Also Sano must try to get back into the favor of the Emperor and beat his rival and spies who are out to smear his good name.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to say, this was not her best book, but, being a fan, I read it and loved it anyways. It has a wonderful plot and shows a side of Japan that you may not have known of.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kiss ur hand three times repost this at 3 differnt books then look under ur pillo
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A dead body washes up on the shore of Nagasaki Japan. It is Dutch Trade Director Jan Spaen. Sano Ichiro was only supposed to inspect Nagasaki, but he somehow manages to get caught up in this murder mystery. And what starts as a murder investigation, turns into a fight for Sano¿s life. I liked this book because its ¿level of suspense¿ was usually quite high. However, there were parts of the book that were somewhat dull. The book kicks off on the right foot with an execution in the prologue. Then it continues to appall me with a sword duel in the first chapters. Unfortunately the book couldn¿t keep the pace it started and my interest was soon lost. Then my interest returned for an exciting part, but soon dissipated as the dullness returned. It was like this the entire time. And, the book went into way too much detail of the people¿s sexual practices. I don¿t want to know that kind of stuff yet, or ever. The book was very long and drawn out, and it should have been shortened. A plus was the occasional use of Japanese words and phrases such as gomen nasai, sumimasen, and bakarashii (meaning I¿m sorry, excuse me, and ridiculous respectively). Another plus was the advanced English vocabulary. This book is for audiences mature enough for the intense death scenes and sexual content. If you have a weak stomach, don¿t read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book gave a good mystery and good action.If you are a fan of samurai or just like mystery GET THIS BOOK.