As always, Laura Joh Rowland captures the imagination of the reader with her ability to provide the tiniest details of fuedal Japan that gives the reader a glimpse of historical Court life. Her research is phenomenal. As usual Sano Ichiro is in a life or death situation at the whim of a weak ruler who sees enemies everywhere. Sano as court investigator must not only solve a mystery in the capital, he must also find the kidnapped mother of the Shogun himself, as well as his own wife, Reiko, who was kidnapped as well. Rowland gives not only a detailed investigation by Sano and his second in command, but as usual provides the reader with a view of how Sano's capable wife uses her own intelligence to try to remove the kidnapped women from the hands of a mad man.
I had a really hard time getting into the book. Part of the problem may have been that this is the eighth book in the series and I have not read any of the others. While the earlier books weren't necessary, I think that having a familiarity with the background and animosity of Sano Ichiro and Chamberlain Yanagisawa might have made the political maneuvering and forced partnership more interesting. I found that the characters were not fleshed out as much as I would like, and I think that is because the reader is expected to have a lot of the characters' background information from previous novels in the series. Overall the book was just OK, I am not sorry that I chose to read the book but I will probably not read any of the other books in the series.
Rowland follows her usual formula in this 8th book of the Sano Ichiro series: good historical settings; brave and honorable sleuthing by the Shogun's chief investigator, Sano Ichiro; plucky initiative and courage by Ichiro's wife; and reprehensible behaviors of all sorts from the in-fighting nobles of the Shogun's top-heavy court. This episode has an interesting villain, and a good cliff-hanger plot, and Ichiro and wife once more emerge wiser, bruised but unbowed by their travails. Rowland has a knack for weaving the strengths and weaknesses of Japanese character into her tales of Tokugawa-era detection.
A procession has left the sweltering heat of Edo, bound for the cooler climate of Mount Fuji. Among her traveling companions are Reiko, the beautiful wife of Sano Ichiro, the shogun's MOst HOnorable Investagator; Reiko's friend Midori, nine months pregnant; and Lady Yanagisawa, the deranged wife of the shogun's powerful second-in-command. the entire retinue is viciously slaughtered on the road and the four women bound and taken away. Sano must find the answers.