Unlike the previous books in the series where it takes place in the city of Edo, in The Snow Empress, the action happens in the northernmost island of Japan, Ezogashima. Imagine being in a strange place with a lord who has practically lost his mind over the grief of his murdered mistress, being held hostage with limited movement and freedom to solve the mystery, and trying to find your kidnapped son... Emotions are running high for everyone, and you can't help but feel like something bad is going to happen.
The latest installment, The Snow Empress of the Sano Ichiro Mystery Series by Laura Joh Rowland, will keep you on the edge of your seat! I bought the book in the afternoon, and I had to finish reading it in one sitting to find out what really happened even if I stayed up till 2 a.m. finishing it. It's an excellent read! I couldn't put the book down. It will tug at the strings of your heart.
This has been the strangest book in the 17th-century Japanese mystery series so far, straying into paranormal territory. Chamberlain Sano's son Masahiro has been kidnapped, and he discovers that his political rival Lord Matsudaira is responsible and has sent the child to the frontier island of Ezogashima. Sano and his wife Reiko journey there, only to discover that the local ruler, Lord Matsumae, has been driven insane by the murder of his mistress and is holding the entire province hostage until he finds the killer. Sano strikes a deal with him - he will solve the murder in exchange for their freedom and that of his son. But that proves to be more difficult and fraught with danger than he realizes.
Rowland's series has taken an interestingly strange turn with the development of Sano's faithful retainer Hirata's ninja-like powers, and now with the twist of the spirit possession of his enemy. I would be interested to find out if Rowland's portrayal of the primitive tribe of the Ezo and their supernatural beliefs is accurate or a fabrication - it's unfortunate that she does not include any explanations of her research, which somewhat detracts from my enjoyment of the series. But her pen is skillfully handled as usual and I look forward to the next book.