May 1695. During a horse race at Edo Castle the chief of the shogun's intelligence service, Ejima Senzaemon, drops dead as his horse gallops across the finish line-the fourth in a recent series of sudden deaths of high-ranking officials. Sano Ichiro is ordered to investigate, despite his recent promotion to chamberlain and his new duties as the shogun's second-in-command.
Meanwhile, Sano's wife, Reiko, is invited to attend the trial of Yugao, a beautiful young woman accused of stabbing her parents and sister to death. The woman has confessed, but the magistrate believes there is more to this case than meets the eye. He delays his verdict and asks Reiko to prove Yugao's guilt or innocence.
As their investigations continue, both Sano and Reiko come to realize that the man he is trying to hunt and the woman she is desperate to save are somehow connected. A single fingerprint on Ejima's temple puts Sano on the trail of an underground movement to overthrow the regime, and in the path of an assassin with a deadly touch.
Far from the shogun's court at Edo, Most Honourable Investigator Sano Ichiro begins the most challenging case of his career. Upon the insistence of his strong-willed and beautiful wife Reiko, Sano arrives with her at the emperor's palace to unmask the murderer – who possesses the secret of kiai, "the spirit cry," a powerful scream that can kill instantly. A high Kyoto offical is the victim. Treading carefully through a web of spies, political intrigue, forbidden passions and intricate plots, Sano and Reiko must struggle to stay ahead of the palace storms – and outwit a cunning killer. But as they soon discover, solving the case means more than their survival. For if they fail, Japan could be consumed in the bloodiest war it has ever seen… A legendary land comes alive in this compelling murder mystery set in seventeenth-century Japan. Filled with finely drawn characters and suspenseful plot twists, THE SAMURAI'S WIFE is a novel as complex, vivid and artful as the glorious, lost world it portrays.
Samurai Sano Ichiro and his wife Reiko, are hot on the heels of a mysterious courtesan in bestselling novelist Laura Joh Rowland's latest historical thriller. In the carefully ordered world of 17th century Japan, the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter is home to women who have been sold to brothels as punishment for their crimes. It is here that the shogun's dashing young cousin and heir apparent is found dead – stabbed through the eye with a long hairpin – in the bed of a beautiful courtesan named Lady Wisteria. When both Lady Wisteria and her private journal – or pillow book – turn up missing, Sano Ichiro, the shogun's Most Honourable Investigator of Events, Situations and People, is called upon to solve the crime and find the lady, a job that is complicated slightly by the fact that Sano had a brief affair with her some years ago. Against his better judgement Sano accepts the help of his fiery, young wife, Reiko, in exploring the surprisingly dangerous world of the pleasure quarter as he seeks to unmask a killer.
It is June 1694, and Reiko, the beautiful wife of Sano Ichiro; Reiko's friend, Midori; the shogun's mother; and Lady Yanagisawa, wife of the shogun's powerful second-in-command, are kidnapped en route to Mount Fuji and imprisoned in the tower of a ruined palace. The shogun demands quick action – and under the threat of death, Sano is forced to work with his sworn enemies, Yangisawa and Hoshina. The women are in imminent danger and the delivery of a ransom note only complicates the situation – revealing a surprising target for the kidnapper's plot, and creating another impossible situation for Sano.
November 1694. The streets of Edo are erupting in violence as two factions struggle for control over the ruling Tokugawa regime. One is led by the shogun's cousin, Lord Matsudaira, and the other by the shogun's second-in-command, Chamberlain Yanagisawa. Each side pressures Sano Ichiro, the shogun's most honorable investigator, to join its ranks.
When one of the shogun's most trusted advisers is found dead, Sano is forced to honor a posthumous request for a murder investigation. Senior Elder Makino believed that his death would be the result of assassination rather than natural causes. Although he and Sano were bitter enemies, Makino knew that the incorruptible Sano would be duty-bound to oblige his final wish.
Under the watchful eyes and thinly veiled threats of both Lord Matsudaira and Chamberlain Yanagisawa, Sano moves with caution. Each is eager to implicate the other in Makino's death. Sano must discover whether the death was indeed murder, and if so, whether it was motivated by politics, love, or sex. The discovery of secret alliances, both romantic and military, further complicates matters. Sano's investigation has barely begun when violent death claims another of the shogun's favorites.
With his wife, Reiko, working undercover, Sano and his chief retainer, Hirata, must not only investigate multiple deaths, but stem the tide of an impending civil war.
Twenty months spent as the shogun's sosakan-sama – most honorable investigator of events, situations, and people – has left Sano Ichiro weary. He looks forward to the comforts that his arranged marriage promises: a private life with a sweet, submissive wife and a month's holiday to celebrate their union. However, the death of the shogun's favorite concubine interrupts the couple's wedding ceremony and shatters any hopes the samurai detective had about enjoying a little peace with his new wife. After Sano traces the cause of Lady Harume's death to a self-inflicted tattoo, he must travel into the cloistered, forbidden world of the shogun's women to untangle the complicated web of Harume's lovers, rivals, and troubled past, and identify her killer. To make matters worse, Reiko, his beautiful young bride, reveals herself to be not a traditional, obedient wife, but instead, a headstrong, intelligent, aspiring detective bent on helping Sano with his new case. Sano is horrified at her unladylike behavior, and the resulting sparks make their budding love as exciting as the mystery surrounding Lady Harume's death. Amid the heightened tensions and political machinations of feudal Japan, Sano faces a daunting, complex investigation.
Someone has set fire to a cottage on the premises of the prestigious Black Lotus Temple in 1691, Japan, killing three sect members. Veteran samurai-detective Sano Ichiro, the Most Honourable Investigator of Events, Situations and People, is uncharacteristically quick to blame a delinquent orphan-girl found fleeing the scene. But his young wife, Reiko, has different ideas. After hearing rumours of ill doings within the sect, and using information privy only to a woman of the samurai class, Reiko finds that newcomers to the Black Lotus are mysteriously disappearing almost as quickly as the sect can convert them. Unfortunately for the orphan and all who have disappeared in the name of the Black Lotus, no one will believe Reiko. If only she can convince her husband before he condemns an innocent to burn at the stake… This is the latest in a smashingly-received and best-selling series starring Sano Ichiro. Now, since the introduction of his winsomely take-charge wife, the series, set in the luscious finery of the samurai court of medieval Japan, has won an enormous following.
From Publishers Weekly
Brutal murders linked to an ancient betrayal send late 17th-century Tokyo into a panic. They also spell big trouble for the Shogun's special investigator, Sano Ichiro, in this sequel to Rowland's well-received first novel, Shinju. The killings are made known when the severed heads of the victims are put on public display, in the manner of an ancient custom known as bundori, or war trophy. The victims are descendants of warriors who, more than a century earlier, were involved in the murder of a powerful warlord. As the killings continue, Sano, though hampered in his investigation by his devotion to the warrior-code of bushido and its precepts of silent obedience and service, suspects three of the most powerful men in the Shogunate, including Chamberlain Yanagisawa. Also complicating Sano's quest for the truth is a female ninja in Yanagisawa's power; aiding it are an eager young officer in the Tokyo police and a quirky old morgue attendant. Sano's allegiance to bushido makes him an unexpectedly passive hero, undermining the author's apparent attempt to wed Japanese philosophy to Western mystery-thriller conventions. But the novel reads smoothly and positively smokes with historical atmospherics.
From Library Journal
Part historical novel, part detective story, and part romance, Rowland's sequel to Shinju (LJ, 8/94) features, once again, the samurai detective Sano Ichiro, working for the shogun of the city of Edo in Tokugawa-era Japan. Several questionable plot devices effectively remove the novel from the detective genre, but the story is well constructed and compulsively readable. Sano must track down, virtually single-handedly, a serial killer who is at work in the region and whose motivation is complex, related to events of 129 years prior. The detective's job is complicated by court intrigue, increasingly so as his clues point toward suspects of influence. The richness of the historical detail adds enormously to the novel, and the reader comes away with a highly visual sense of life in feudal Japan. An enjoyable light reading experience, recommended for public libraries and popular reading collections.
David Dodd, Univ. of Colorado Libs., Colorado Springs