It’s not always easy coming into a series half way through, and this book was no exception. I hadn’t realised when I picked it up that it was in fact the ninth featuring the main character as I had heard of neither the author nor the scenario before. This is a historical crime novel, set in seventeenth century Japan, a period I know virtually nothing about. There was enough catch up material to enable the new reader to understand what had happened in previous novels, but I suspect that it would be irritating to a fan of the series.
Sano Ichiro, former police chief, has recently been appointed Chamberlain, a job he is having some difficulty adjusting to. He accepts with alacrity the order to investigate the mysterious death of the chief of the Shogun’s intelligence service, but the investigation proves more complicated and dangerous to his own personal safety than he had thought possible. Meanwhile, Reiko, his wife and former assistant, is unhappy in the confines of her new role as Chamberlain’s wife and also accepts the request to investigate a case of murder apparently committed by a young woman of the outcast class.
It is somewhat predictable that these two cases are connected, and I didn’t really feel that the promised twist at the end ever materialised. Nevertheless, there was a wealth of wonderful period detail that made the book interesting to read, and Rowland goes to some effort to show the characters’ motivations, as they are not always what we would expect from our Western perspective.