In the painting, the Duke of Flanders and his knight are locked in a game of chess, and a dark lady lurks mysteriously in the background. Julia is determined to solve the five-hundred-year-old murder, but as she begins to look for clues, several of her friends in the art world are brutally murdered in quick succession. Messages left with the bodies suggest a crucial connection between the chess game in the painting, the knight's murder, the sordid underside of the contemporary art world, and the latest deaths. Just when all of the players in the mystery seem to be pawns themselves, events race toward a shocking conclusion. A thriller like no other, The Flanders Panel presents a tantalizing puzzle for any connoisseur of mystery, chess, art, and history.
MATTHEW PEARL'S second novel is based on what he calls "one of literary history's most persistent gaps." Edgar Allan Poe died, Pearl tells us, "at the age of 40 in a Baltimore hospital on Oct. 7, 1849, four days after being found in distress at Ryan's inn and tavern." The stubbornly unexplained gap occurred in the five days preceding his appearance at the tavern.
Poe was supposed to be almost anywhere other than Baltimore: he was traveling from Richmond to New York with a planned stop in Philadelphia, not Baltimore. No one knows how he came to be in the city – or, for that matter, how he ended up at the tavern. For some of us, this pretty much describes a really great Saturday night, but when it happens to the master of darkness, just days before his untimely death, it has the makings of a mystery.
Pearl takes us back to those few lost days through the inquiries of Quentin Clark, a Poe-mad young Baltimorean who is dismayed not just by the writer's death but by the press's apathetic reponse to the news. Clark takes it upon himself to look into matters and rectify this slight to his hero. The trouble is, Clark is a stock character from the world of commercial thrillers: a man with a lot to lose, imperiled by his own obsession. Engaged to a beautiful young woman, the son of wealthy and very proper parents and pursuing a career as a lawyer, he may sacrifice them all to his devotion to Poe.
Clark haunts the writer's grave, visits the hospital where he lay dying and tracks down the Poe cousins. But wherever he turns, he's met with indifference or outright obstruction. Finally, in desperation, he turns to another source of information: the pages of a book. Clark has always admired Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue" and the other mysteries featuring C. Auguste Dupin, the brilliant Frenchman who solves crimes too baffling for the Paris police. "Dupin's reasoning followed a method Poe called ratiocination," Clark reminds himself, "employing one's imagination to achieve analysis, and one's analysis to climb the heights of imagination."
When Clark stumbles on a newspaper item suggesting that Dupin was based on a real Frenchman, he promptly takes off for the Continent. Of course, there turns out to be more than one candidate for this honor, and soon a couple of testy Frenchmen are racing back to America, eager to snatch whatever glory they might from Poe's death.
Baroquely orchestrated complications ensue, up to and including a threat to the future of the French republic. As he demonstrated in his serial-killers-and-philosophers best seller, "The Dante Club," Pearl is a fine scene-setter and a resolute, if not always inspired, plotter. "The Poe Shadow" is thick with intrigue and thicker still with carefully researched (and ostentatiously displayed) details.
Pearl, who taught literature at Harvard before embarking on his literary career, sometimes displays a wonderfully knowing tone, and enjoys playing with 19th-century lingo. When a Baltimore police officer asks Clark if he has a wife and is told that he has a fiancée, the officer warns: "You should have much to occupy yourself without needing to think of this unhappy affair, then. Or your sweetheart might give you the mitten." Sadly, Pearl's plot is not all sweethearts and mittens.
With its bewildered narrator and its attempt to marry the rational and the spooky, "The Poe Shadow" seems to be modeled on Poe's own writing, but it's missing a crucial element: brevity. Although Pearl has a real affinity for 19th-century America, he overwhelms the strengths of his book with a hurricane of ersatz Victorian prose. He doesn't just disinter Poe's story; he disinters the language of Poe's time. After a while, you feel like you're trapped in a sepia-toned faux-daguerrotype. Pearl has created a museum rather than a world. And no one lives in a museum.
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
It is 1537 and Thomas Cromwell has ordered that all monasteries should be dissolved. Cromwell's Commissioner is found dead, his head severed from his body. Dr Shardlake is sent to uncover the truth behind what has happened. His investigation forces him to question everything that he himself believes.
The Chinese Lake Murders describes how Judge Dee solves three difficult cases in A.D. 666, shortly after he has been appointed magistrate of Han-yuan.
"[Robert van Gulik] deftly interweaves three criminal cases involving exotic yet universally recognizable characters, then has his Judge Dee provide a surprising yet most plausible solution."-New York Times Book Review
Robert Van Gulik (1910-67) was a Dutch diplomat and an authority on Chinese history and culture. He drew his plots from the whole body of Chinese literature, especially from the popular detective novels that first appeared in the seventeenth century.
The year is 1540. Shardlake has been pulled, against his better judgement, into defending Elizabeth Wentworth, charged with murdering her cousin. He is powerless to help the girl, yet she is suddenly given a reprieve – courtesy of Cromwell. The cost of the reprieve to Shardlake is two weeks once again in his service.
In 1865 Boston, the literary geniuses of the Dante Club—poets and Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, along with publisher J. T. Fields—are finishing America’s first translation of The Divine Comedy and preparing to unveil Dante’s remarkable visions to the New World. The powerful Boston Brahmins at Harvard College are fighting to keep Dante in obscurity, believing that the infiltration of foreign superstitions into American minds will prove as corrupting as the immigrants arriving at Boston Harbor.
The members of the Dante Club fight to keep a sacred literary cause alive, but their plans fall apart when a series of murders erupts through Boston and Cambridge. Only this small group of scholars realizes that the gruesome killings are modeled on the descriptions of Hell’s punishments from Dante’s Inferno. With the lives of the Boston elite and Dante’s literary future in America at stake, the Dante Club members must find the killer before the authorities discover their secret.
Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes and an outcast police officer named Nicholas Rey, the first black member of the Boston police department, must place their careers on the line to end the terror. Together, they discover that the source of the murders lies closer to home than they ever could have imagined.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This story is set in Japan, 1698. Sano Ichiro may be a samurai sleuth and the shogun's trusted advisor, but his growing power at court makes him – and his family – a target for treachery. And this time gruesome discovery brings especially tough questions. Lord Mori, heir to the shogun, is found grotesquely mutilated and murdered – with Sano's pregnant wife, Reiko, lying beside him naked and covered in blood. Sano seeks the truth behind the Rashomon-like accounts of the murder, the stakes are almost unbearably high, and the only piece of evidence is a white Chrysanthemum – stained red with blood.
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.
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