Tag Archives: Sano Ichiro mysteries

Laura Joh Rowland Publishes Her 18th and Final Historical Mystery of Feudal Japan: Highly Recommended

02_The Iris Fan CoverReview~

Laura Joh Rowland has brought us exciting mysteries from feudal Japan for something like 20 years! That seems unheard of in today’s publishing market, but alas, as The Iris Fan is the Sano Ichiro #18, it looks like this will be the last of the series. I don’t blame Laura for wanting to concentrate on writing new things, but with such longevity, Sano certainly now seems like a household name we can call on in time of need (even if we have to call by opening our time travel doors back to the 17th century).

Of course, we can expect nothing less than Laura putting Sano in all sorts of predicaments, and as he works his way through his ordeals, but soon returns to the limelight to solve an intriguing mystery. I mean, Laura had me at “the shogun is stabbed by a fan made of painted silk….”….ooooo….how could that not suck me right in. I needed to see if Sano could find a solution to the crime so he didn’t incur the wrath of the shogun or his heir.

Her character of Sano is again on point and well-polished. We know him so well already. Her supporting and surrounding cast of characters are always used to full effect. I think Laura likes to catch her readers off guard with her character’s personalities, creating twists, turns, and an element of surprise that keep the pages turning. I like that Reiko is such a force as a character in the book as well, sometimes solving pieces of the mystery herself. Her dimensional character brings real emotion to the novel (and her other novels) as Laura incorporates the life of Reiko and Sano into the mystery. Reiko stands by her man, but she is not always pleased with his choices.Yes, they are always more strong together, even if they don’t realize it, and in this novel, they come back to being even stronger than ever. I was so happy to see that.

The back storyline of Taeko and Masahiro in the novel, which wrapped into completing the villain’s story. It was a love story, with some emotional and drastic times, and helped the ending of the novel come at me full-force with amazing action. I was shocked by the crescendo of the plot! However, following she tied it all up leaving me a happy reader and comforted by where the characters all were at the moment their time in the limelight had ended. It just left me ready for the pursuits of the next generation, so I can’t imagine never being able to revisit this family again….

I love the feelings that Laura creates in me as a reader when I read her book, as her descriptions allow me to be present in their world. I love the type of mystery that uses old school detective work and ancient instincts to solve crime rather than rely on modern day technology. She uses the time and place very well to create interesting concepts and intrigue. Her writing creates atmosphere and suspense, which ultimately, makes her a superb mystery writer.

She does her finest in The Iris Fan, giving us a historical mystery to devour, but then I read too quickly and was sad at the end, especially since we must say goodbye to Sano and his family. I highly recommend The Iris Fan, since it’s one of the few historical mysteries of feudal Japan written with such skill, but if you want to read it, I encourage you to read at least several prior to this one too. I imagine you’ll want to read the whole series! Thanks, Laura, for sharing your mysteries with us, they’ve been great friends!

02_The Iris Fan CoverThe Iris Fan, Synopsis~

Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Minotaur Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover

Series: Sano Ichiro Mystery Series (Book 18)
Genre: Historical Mystery

Japan, 1709. The shogun is old and ailing. Amid the ever-treacherous intrigue in the court, Sano Ichirō has been demoted from chamberlain to a lowly patrol guard. His relationship with his wife Reiko is in tatters, and a bizarre new alliance between his two enemies Yanagisawa and Lord Ienobu has left him puzzled and wary. Sano’s onetime friend Hirata is a reluctant conspirator in a plot against the ruling regime. Yet, Sano’s dedication to the Way of the Warrior—the samurai code of honor—is undiminished.

Then a harrowing, almost inconceivable crime takes place. In his own palace, the shogun is stabbed with a fan made of painted silk with sharp-pointed iron ribs. Sano is restored to the rank of chief investigator to find the culprit. This is the most significant, and most dangerous, investigation of his career. If the shogun’s heir is displeased, he will have Sano and his family put to death without waiting for the shogun’s permission, then worry about the consequences later. And Sano has enemies of his own, as well as unexpected allies. As the previously unimaginable death of the shogun seems ever more possible, Sano finds himself at the center of warring forces that threaten not only his own family but Japan itself.

Riveting and richly imagined, with a magnificent sense of time and place, The Iris Fan is the triumphant conclusion to Laura Joh Rowland’s brilliant series of thrillers set in feudal Japan.

The Sano Ichiro Mystery Series Titles

Shinjū
Bundori
The Way of the Traitor
The Concubine’s Tattoo
The Samurai’s Wife
Black Lotus
The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria
The Dragon King’s Palace
The Perfumed Sleeve
The Assassin’s Touch
The Red Chrysanthemum
The Snow Empress
The Fire Kimono
The Cloud Pavilion
The Ronin’s Mistress
The Incense Game
The Shogun’s Daughter
The Iris Fan

Buy the Book~

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository
IndieBound

Author Laura Joh Rowland, Biography~

03_Laura Joh RowlandGranddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan.

She is the author of seventeen previous Sano Ichiro thrillers set in feudal Japan. The Fire Kimono was named one of the Wall Street Journal’s “Five Best Historical Mystery Novels”; and The Snow Empress and The Cloud Pavilion were among Publishers Weekly’s Best Mysteries of the Year.

She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector, and quality engineer.

For more information please visit Laura’s website. You can also follow her on Facebook.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theirisfanblogtourandbookblast/

Hashtags: #TheIrisFanBlogTour #HistoricalMystery #SanIchiroMysterySeries

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @MinotaurBooks

04_The Iris Fan_Blog Tour & Book Blast Banner_FINAL

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

The Shogun’s Daughter is Interesting Mystery Set in 18th Century Japan

The Shogun's DaughterThe Shogun’s Daughter is #17 in a historical mystery series taking place in ancient Japan. That’s right, #17! However, the good thing is that this particular novel can be read as a stand-alone as it has its own plot, so I am assuming the rest do as well.  They do have samurai detective Sano Ichiro in common, as well as some other characters. As I write this review, I think it’s important to point out that I have not read the other books in the series as I have just been made aware of Laura Joh Rowland’s work.

Detective Sano Ichiro doesn’t waste much time when interviewing or cutting the chase with anyone he is interviewing. This time, he takes on Yanagisawa, the shogun’s advisor who was also married to the shogun’s daughter. At the beginning of the book, this daughter passes away from smallpox (an unlikely disease for royalty, even at the time,which is why Sano is curious).  The adopted son of Yanagisawa, a seventeen year old named Yoshisato, is named the shogun’s heir after it is announced that he is the shogun’s long-lost son.

The book is an adventure into feudal Japan in 1704, yet the way that Rowland writes the mystery is seems more light-hearted even if the topic wasn’t or the people weren’t. The only way I can explain it is to say that it reminds of me of those older international Asian movies that were mysteries but seeped in something that just made you find it interesting to watch with all their quirks and idiosyncracies.

Sano takes on a dangerous mystery, but he isn’t your normal detective investigating the stereotypical players. These players are driven by politics, dictatorship, and family drama and this leads him down a road where even his family is not safe. Eventually, the tables are even turned this time.

Rowland has a niche with her historical mysteries as I haven’t seen too many Asian-oriented mysteries published in the U.S. I’d be interested in going back and reading some of her back list to find out how it all started. She’s been writing for many years and has created her own style that is authentic to Asian storytelling.  The detective is original and honest and brings something creative to a world seeped in mystery detectives. He’s memorable. With her other characters, she seems to have really captured the original oriental style and personalities, unlike other mainstream novelists who might write about another time and place.

Her character of Hirata, who Sano has had a longtime friendship with and I presume has been in other books, was a good sub-supporting choice. I liked how she incorporated the mystic martial arts (some of my fave movies have this theme) into the book and plot through him and his side pursuits.  I also enjoyed the relationship between nine-year-old Taeko and Masahiro, Sano’s 12-year-old son.  I hope to read more stories of those two in the future!  And without giving spoilers, the distress in the relationship between Yoshisato and Yanagisawa really tugged at my heart-strings. I felt so awful for Yoshisato and was again reminded, as I often am in books, why issues with people in life should always try to be resolved before something unthinkable happens and resolution is a fleeting moment of the past.  Yet the ending had a twist and I didn’t see it coming! She did a good job with the element of surprise as it sneaked up on me, even when I should have known better!

I had a few hiccups with her writing style that I want to point out, not to fault Rowland or her books, but just because I think they would be so obvious to readers that I must give some pre-notice to them even if I hate to do so. Her writing style can, in sections, be simplistic and narrow, without depth of details. Her writing isn’t lush and visual, but more clean and tight. Seeing how she was a scientist of all kinds for many years of her life, I can possibly understand where that comes from within her writing style. Not everyone writes the same and I can appreciate that, and I know she’s been published a long time, but I am not sure why there are some issues with getting present and past tense correct and consistent. Also, it seemed odd the way she constructed people’s thoughts from their head onto the page. Instead of us just hearing their private thoughts from their head, she announced they couldn’t say it out loud.  I did think that they seemed to be more ironed out by the second half of the book, though.  Her sentences are short, to the point, and sometimes there is too much repetition for my taste, even as a fast reader. Also, she is brash in her sentences due to the utilization of colons.

However, for those readers who like an entertaining mystery read who haven’t read any of Rowland’s books, this would be a great book to grab and spend a day reading! I did really get into the second half of the book and formed some emotional connections to the characters.

The Shogun’s Daughter was a unique mystery embroiled in drama and intrigue of feudal Japan, with an original and memorable samurai investigator and his cast of family and friends. I haven’t read many mysteries set in Asian culture or history, so it was an exciting new venture. It wasn’t a thriller with lots of decoding or fast-moving action, but it is a great detective mystery wrapped in the political intrigue and drama of past Japanese culture. I enjoyed how she took a true story from Japanese history and formed her own story based on a “what if” scenario. After reading the ending, I am sure there is another book coming featuring Hirata and his adventures.  I look forward to it!

Watch for my interview with Laura Joh Rowland coming to the blog on September 25!

THE SHOGUN’S DAUGHTER, Synopsis~

The Shogun's DaughterPublication Date: September 17, 2013
Minotaur Books
Hardcover; 336p
ISBN-10: 1250028612

Japan, 1704. In an elegant mansion a young woman named Tsuruhime lies on her deathbed, attended by her nurse. Smallpox pustules cover her face. Incense burns, to banish the evil spirits of disease. After Tsuruhime takes her last breath, the old woman watching from the doorway says, “Who’s going to tell the Shogun his daughter is dead?”

The death of the Shogun’s daughter has immediate consequences on his regime. There will be no grandchild to leave the kingdom. Faced with his own mortality and beset by troubles caused by the recent earthquake, he names as his heir Yoshisato, the seventeen-year-old son he only recently discovered was his. Until five months ago, Yoshisato was raised as the illegitimate son of Yanagisawa, the shogun’s favorite advisor. Yanagisawa is also the longtime enemy of Sano Ichiro.

Sano doubts that Yoshisato is really the Shogun’s son, believing it’s more likely a power-play by Yanagisawa. When Sano learns that Tsuruhime’s death may have been a murder, he sets off on a dangerous investigation that leads to more death and destruction as he struggles to keep his pregnant wife, Reiko, and his son safe. Instead, he and his family become the accused. And this time, they may not survive the day.

Laura Joh Rowland’s thrilling series set in Feudal Japan is as gripping and entertaining as ever.

Praise for Laura Joh Rowland~

Author of The Fire Kimono, “one of the five best historical mystery novels”—The Wall Street Journal

“Rowland has a painter’s eye for the minutiae of court life, as well as a politician’s ear for intrigue.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Sano may carry a sword and wear a kimono, but you’ll immediately recognize him as an ancestor of Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade.”—The Denver Post

Author Laura Joh Rowland, Biography~

Laura Joh RowlandLaura Joh Rowland is the author of a mystery series set in medieval Japan, featuring samurai detective Sano Ichiro. The Shogun’s Daughter is the seventeenth book in the series.

Her work has been published in 13 foreign countries, nominated for the Anthony Award and the Hammett Prize, and won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Historical Mystery. Laura lives in New York City.

For more information please visit Laura’s website. You can also follow her on Facebook.

The Shogun's Daughter Tour Banner FINAL

Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theshogunsdaughtertour
Twitter Hashtag: #ShogunsDaughterTour

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews