When the daimyo Lord Inaba is murdered in this fast-paced sequel to The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn (Philomel, 1999/VOYA October 1999) and The Demon in the Teahouse (2001/VOYA June 2001), the Tokugawa shogun, who insists that his vassals spend time in Edo under his protection, is both embarrassed and honor bound to find and punish the killer. The shogun asks Judge Ooka to investigate the crime and find the assassin. Ooka assigns most of the searching and fact-gathering to his assistant and adopted son, Seikei. Even after two successful rounds as Ooka's Dr. Watson, Seikei remains unsure of himself. The one clue, a folded paper butterfly, sends him, with a thief as his companion and advisor, into the countryside of eighteenth-century feudal Japan, tracking a canny ninja. But the real murderer is not the ninja assassin. The mystery is solved by the perceptive reader in the first few pages, but the action here is at least the equal of the other two series books, and all the better for knowing whom Seikei should fear. The story of a young man pursuing and trapping a powerful ninja should find its way easily into the hands of readers. Try not to let them know that they will be learning quite a bit about eighteenth-century Japan. VOYA Codes: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, Philomel, 208p., Ages 11 to 15.
The suspenseful adventures of Seikei, 14-year-old samurai apprentice to Judge Ooka in early 18th-century Japan, continue in this sequel to The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn and The Demon in the Teahouse, though this volume can stand alone. When a samurai lord is mysteriously murdered while under the shogun's protection and only an origami butterfly is left behind as a clue, Judge Ooka is called in to solve the crime and he enlists Seikei to help him. Disguised as a pilgrim and accompanied by a ninja, Seikei travels to a province in the far north to ascertain the maker of the paper from which the butterfly was created. Along the way, Seikei learns about ninjas and also about the dire condition of the impoverished peasantry. When he takes the peasants' complaints to their lord, he is thrown in prison, but luckily rescued by his resourceful ninja companion. In the end, brave Seikei must hike a sacred mountain and confront a famed but dangerous ninja alone in order to discover who had hired this ninja to kill the samurai lord, and why. As with its predecessors, this is an exciting mystery/historical novel, full of details of the shogun era in Japan. The plot moves swiftly and the information on samurai and ninja warriors will captivate readers, especially boys. A brief Author's Note at the end gives some background on the era and on Judge Ooka, a real-life magistrate, "the Sherlock Holmes of Japan." KLIATT Codes: J*Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 2004, Penguin Putnam, Philomel, 208p., Ages 12 to 15.
Even though well guarded, Lord Inaba is killed in his sleep. Judge Ooka and his adopted son Seikei are appointed by the Shogan to solve the mystery and find the murderer. The only clues are a red origami butterfly left to ward off the spirits of the dead and the killer's escape rope. Judge Ooka catches the illusive ninja Tatsuno and demands that he travel with Seikei to Lord Inaba's territory and find out who his enemies were and to verify the source of paper for the butterfly. They learn the butterfly was made for the O'Miwa shrine. En route naïve Seikei witnesses starving families and reports his find to the new Lord Inaba, son of the first, who ruthlessly takes the names and sends his soldiers to kill them and throws Seikei into the dungeon. Tatsuno impersonates a samurai and rescues Seikei, and they meet the Judge in the town near the shrine. Seikei is sent into the shrine to find the assassin and learn who hired him to kill Lord Inaba. The story is full of suspense and adventure and depicts life in Japan in the 18th century. Judge Ooka was a real person who served Shogan Yoshimune, ruler of Japan 1717-1744, and adding fictitious Seikei appeals to the adolescent reader. In Darkness, Death is the third mystery featuring these characters. 2004, Philomel Books/Penguin Young Readers Group, Ages 10 to 14.
Janet L. Rose
Gr 5-8-This fine mystery set in 18th-century Japan continues the adventures of Judge Ooka and his 14-year-old adopted son, Seikei. This time, they are asked to investigate the death of Lord Inaba, who was murdered under the watchful eye of the shogun. Their only clue is a bloodstained origami butterfly. The judge sends Seikei to a distant town in the care of the enigmatic ninja Tatsuno to find out who bought the paper from which the butterfly was made. This leads them to a remote monastery and, unwittingly, right into the killer's hiding place. The plot falters a bit when Seikei takes it upon himself to argue the case of starving peasants to the local lord, known to be ruthless, and is thrown in jail. He is much too smart to be so naive about the morals of the local ruler. However, this development illustrates his big heart, and readers will easily forgive this minor flaw considering the story's solid suspense, fast-paced action, and authentic setting. Overall, a satisfying mystery that's sure to please fans and likely to win a few converts.-Karen T. Bilton, Somerset County Library, Bridgewater, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Adventure (and honor) in the land of ancient Japan-in the world of ninjas and the Shogun-will intrigue young readers who will find themselves fascinated with the details. The Hooblers first introduced Judge Ooka to readers in The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn (1999) and The Demon in the Teahouse (2001). The judge lived during the eighth Shogun of the Tokugawa family, who ruled Japan in the early 1700s. Traditional tales have established Judge Ooka as the Sherlock Holmes of Japan. This tale solidifies that reputation as the judge and his fictional foster son, Seikei, seek to solve the murder of a prominent lord. From the beginning, the two knew that a ninja had committed the murder, but the Shogun requested Ooka to find the person who ordered the assassination. To solve the mystery, the two travel the country to the Etchu Province and obtain permission to enter onto Mount Miwa. There Seikei confronts the answer and the danger of their quest. Honor and respect play a large part in the actions of all the characters in this first-rate mystery. Well-plotted and fast-paced-a great read. (author's note) (Fiction. 10-13)