Shinju - Sano Ichiro, Bk 1 Author:Laura Joh Rowland When beautiful, wealthy Yukiko and low-born artist Noriyoshi are found drowned together in a shinju, or ritual double suicide, everyone believes the culprit was forbidden love. Everyone but newly appointed yoriki Sano Ichiro. — Despite the official verdict and warnings from his superiors, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Si... more »tuations, and People suspects the deaths weren't just a tragedy -- they were murder. Risking his family's good name and his own life, Sano will search for a killer across every level of society -- determined to find answers to a mystery no one wants solved. No one but Sano...
As subtle and beautiful as the culture it evokes, Shinju vividly re-creates a world of ornate tearooms and gaudy pleasure-palaces, cloistered mountaintop convents and deathly prisons. Part love story, part mystery, Shinju is a tour that will dazzle and entertain all who enter its world.« less
Set in Edo, Japan 1689, Shinju published 1994 is Laura Joh Rowland's 1st book in a continuing medieval mystery series. The 11th title Red Chrysanthemum came out in 2006. As is often the case, this initial book is best place to start series. Enjoyable light reading.
I absolutely loved this book! I find Japanese culture and Samurai culture fascinating, and this book did not disappoint. It painted a beautiful picture of Japan in the 17th century, and the story kept me wanting to see what would happen next. A great mystery that I would recommend to anyone!
The author transports the reader not only to 17th century Japan but into the mindset of the Samurai philosophy and the culture. Rowland wraps all this in an intricate mystery of a supposed ritual double suicide of a noble woman and a commoner. Sano Ichiro once met is not easily forgotten. As the reader is propelled to the books conclusion there is the satisfaction of knowing that this is just the beginning of this wonderful series!
I am an advocate of reading series in order and have to admit I liked others in the series even more than this first entry so I had to leave a little room in the ratings. This first book sets up Sano's character and conflicts which lead to the higher enjoyment of others in the series.
My husband also enjoyed this book, proving this is a series for men and women. What drew him to Sano Ichiro was his quiet dignity and strength and how he used these to help him face a problem or situation. Learning the philosophy of the samurai and Japanese beliefs all added to the enjoyment of this taut mystery.
It came across as well researched, which is a plus, but I was never able to connect to the main character, who had the annoying habit of wavering on whether to continue investigating several times throughout the book. Although I understand why this conflict of interest continued to reappear - he was constantly finding new information that raised the stakes of the investigation - I wasn't fully convinced in his doubt and never worried that he would seriously consider giving up. The passages where he decided to continue were weak; they appeared rushed, with no time for him to really consider quitting, and he would come to the realization that he couldn't walk away with a suddenness that rang false to me, making the whole thing appear more as a device to raise tension (will he or won't he?) than anything true to the story.
There were also one or two times where he ignored information that, to the reader, was obviously important. Perhaps because he's a newly appointed yoriki and this is his first big crime it's only natural that he would brush aside what he thought to be meaningless chatter, but as a reader I was annoyed with what I took to be weak attempts to stretch the story out.
The mastermind behind the crime is easy enough to figure out and probably won't come as a huge surprise to anyone.
There are also a few cases of explicit sexual content and violence, in case anyone prefers to be warned about those in advance.
The story moved a little slowly for my tastes, although it picked up near the end. There were a few chapters in the point of view of side characters that I thought didn't add anything and could have been done away with in order to keep it moving at a better clip. While I might get the second book to see if I enjoy it more, I'm in no rush.
In Japan of the 1670's, Sano Ichiro's elderly, ailing father has pulled some strings to get him appointed yoriki (which seems to be much like a police sergeant). However, from the very start, Sano finds himself in conflict at his job - his superior orders him to quietly bury the embarrassing discovery of the bodies of a wealthy young noblewoman and a commoner known for his erotic artworks - apparently a double suicide based on their doomed love. But Sano has a feeling that this was not suicide but murder - and with the evidence gained through an illegal autopsy and a bit of investigation, his hunch grows even stronger.
However, even as Sano turns up more evidence pointing at a web of blackmail, pornography and prostitution, sadism and even treason, his personal situation grows more and more precarious, as he stands in danger of losing his position, his patron, and even his family honor.
Rowland has jam-packed her book with details and anecdotes of Japan, making for a colorful background - but the story itself seems to be a very modern murder-mystery overlaid against this background, rather than a story that naturally emerges from the time period, characters and culture she has chosen.
Also - it may be a quibble, but her description of a sushi bar at one point in the story describes a style of cuisine and its presentation which I truly believe would not have been present in Japan until around 1800 - over 100 years after the setting of this story. Although I am not an expert on the details of Japanese history, this throws doubt on many of her other historical details. I also have doubts about the women's Sumo sex show.