Laura Joh Rowland
The Tokugawa shogun clan rules in Edo, Japan in 1689. Society is maintained by strict class codes and honors. Samurai have patrons to whom they owe their loyalty and positions.
Yoriki Sano Ichiro is the newest senior police commander in Edo. His father is a displaced samurai without a sponsor.who has a samurai training school. Sano had been a teacher until his father was able to call in a favor. He now has a sponsor and a better paying job.
When a couple is found in the river in an act of shinju - ritual suicide of lovers who cannot be together by society's rules - Sano is given the case to close. Instead, he starts to investigate. The woman came from one of the leading families in Edo, the Nui family. The man was an artist from a lower section of the city, and was at least twenty years older than the woman. Sano has trouble believing this couple committed suicide together. He believes it was murder.
He is ordered to let the case go and accept the ruling. But Sano can't. He starts investigating on his own without any sanction or assistance. When more people who have connections with him or the case start dying Sano is more convinced there is something deeper happening. He could lose his job, his patron, his father, and his life if he continues. Yet Sano can't let go of the pursuit of truth.
Laura Joh Rowland shows Japan during a relatively peaceful time in the country's history. The Tokugawa clan has kept down insurgencies and conspiricies for a long time. Before that, the people in the country we always at war with each other.Shinju vividly portrays the class differences - both in attitudes and in treatment. Sano is in an unusual position - above the peasants but below the powerful administrators of the city. He knows how he is supposed to act in his station. He knows who is above him and who is below him. Sano has compassion for most people, no matter what their class status in life.
This novel is not for the weak stomached reader. It gets violent in many places. The descriptions are explicit enough for the reader to get mind pictures that are disturbing. Sano's reaction to them is also honest, helping the reader feel the emotions of the happenings. Sano is able to uncover the truth about the shinju - but his own life may be forfeit for the inforation.
I had trouble reading this novel because of the descriptions. I had to keep putting down the book to break away from the dark feelings engendered. The writing must be good because I don't care for the book due to how it made me feel while reading.
Notice: Graphic violence, Strong sexual content
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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