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All art is unstable. It's meaning is not necessarily that implied by the author, There is no authorative active voice. There are only multiple readings. David Bowie, 1995

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Samurai, Swordsman, Intrigue and Integrity - Laura Joh Rowland's Sano Ichiro Novels

Laura Joh Rowland's series about the rise to prominence of  San Ichiro as a samurai detective are fabulous. I am loving this view into medieval Japanese life and into the world San Ichiro inhabits.
Times-Picayune referred to the world Rowland has created as, 'fascinating, detailed, colourful, and addictive.' I whole heatedly and enthusiastically concur.
I have taken to reading it with my trusty Dorling Kingsley guide to Japan by my side so I can look up all of the places mentioned and say indulgently and satisfyingly to myself, 'I was there,' or ' I need to go there.' Then I am transported into the life and times of  San Ichiro.
Reading good mysteries set in previous times is exciting especially if as in Rowland's world one can definitely envisage the times.
read more on Rowland's website   http://www.laurajohrowland.com/
San Ichiro series:
Shinju #1
Samurai's Wife #4
The Snow Empress #12
Bundori   #2
The Way of the Traitor.  #3
The Concubine's Tattoo.  #4
The Samurai's Wife   #5
Black Lotus
The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria  #7
The Dragon King's Palace  #8
The Perfumed Sleeve  #9
The Assassin's Touch  #10
Red Chrysanthemum #11
The Snow Empress #12
The Fire Kimono #13
The Cloud Pavilion #14
The Ronin's Mistress #15
The Incense Game #16

Shogun's Daughter #17

...treachery in Ancient Japan!    

I have long enjoyed this series though lately have not kept up as I would've wished to.
Townsend's brilliant descriptive writing immediately transported me to Edo in Ancient Japan. The opening scenes plunged me into the horrific aspect of Edo (Tokyo) post an earthquake. All too fresh a reminder of the disastrous Tsunami of recent times.
The aftermath of the earthquake has not only weakened the buildings but has left people exhausted and dispirited. Graft and corruption is threatening the reconstruction of the city. The Shogun as usual is apathetic to his people's needs and leaves all to his favoured few--whom come and go as regularly as the wind changes.
Sano once again is an unenviable position. Fortune smiles upon his arch enemy Yanagisawa whilst Sano's star plummets dangerously.
The Shogun has a new heir. Doubts have been raised over the heir's legitimacy. At the same time the Shogun's daughter had died from smallpox, or is it murder?
Sano and his wife Reiko are investigating both these matters against the odds. Times are tense and all concerned stand on a hair trigger. 
Hirata, Sano's chief retainer, and follower of the mystical martial arts, has returned after a mysterious absence of four months. During his absence his wife Midori and daughter Taeko have moved in with Sano. Hirata's story continues alongside Sano's search for the truth surrounding the Shogun's daughter's death and revealing the Shogun's heir's as an imposter put in a place by Yangagisawa. 
Fortune deserts and Sano in turn is accused of murder. A guilty verdict means that Sano's family, servants and retainers will join him in death. His wife Reiko and son fight against time to solve the crime. Bravely,Hirato's young daughter, Taeko fights to find clues to Sano's innocence.
The story ends with Hirata's plight as prisoner of his mystical martial companions and us wondering about what is to come.
Because I know the backstory of Sano, his family and friends and enemies, I found little difficulty with  reentering the story with this episode. I feel that newcomers to Sano's world need to enter with an earlier novel. Fans like myself however will enjoy seeing more of the battles between Sanyo and his arch enemy, Hirata's continuing struggle to become free of his  mystical martial companions , Sano's struggle with Bushido discipline, and the hard task master that walking the Way of the Warrior is.

A NetGalley ARC

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