Laura Joh Rowland – Sano Ichiro Samurai Detective 01 – Shinju

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Yoriki Sano Ichiro, Edo’s newest senior police commander, made his way slowly on horseback across Nihonbashi Bridge. Early on this sunny, clear winter morning, throngs of people streamed around him: porters carrying baskets of vegetables to and from market; water vendors with buckets suspended from poles on their shoulders; shoppers and tradesmen bent low under the packages on their backs. The planks thundered with the steps of wood-soled feet; the air was bright with shouts, laughter, and chatter. Even the hallmarks of Sano’s samurai status couldn’t speed his passage. His mount, a bay mare, merely raised him above the bobbing heads. The two swords he wore-one a long, curved saber, the other a shorter dirk elicited no more than an occasional mumbled “A thousand pardons, honorable master.”

When beautiful, wealthy Yukiko and low-born artist Noriyoshi are found drowned together in a shinju, or ritual double suicide, everyone believes the culprit was forbidden love. Everyone but newly appointed yoriki Sano Ichiro.

Despite the official verdict and warnings from his superiors, the shogun’s Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People suspects the deaths weren’t just a tragedy; they were murder. Risking his family’s good name and his own life, Sano will search for a killer across every level of society determined to find answers to a mystery no one wants solved. No one but Sano…

As subtle and beautiful as the culture it evokes, Shinju vividly re-creates a world of ornate tearooms and gaudy pleasure-palaces, cloistered mountaintop convents and deathly prisons.

Part love story, part mystery, Shinju is a tour that will dazzle and entertain all who enter its world

In peacetime, samurai no longer made their fortunes by the sword. Their hope for success lay in getting a position in the government bureaucracy, through some combination of ability and connections. But he hated the thought of leaving his beloved profession for another that would suit him as little as he suited it.

Interesting start to a mystery series situated in 17th century Japan. The central character is a man who is a samurai, and works as a policeman. He’s not comfortable in his role, and felt more comfortable in his previous life as a scholar. But he does feel at ease finding purpose in his life by catching criminals.

And though the mystery is interesting, with a noble family involved and various colourful commoners, too, and political machinations, what really kept me going was watching as Sano had to balance his samurai teachings, codes and honour against his single-minded pursuit of the truth behind the suicides

Kabuki Theatre

Farewell to this world and to the night farewell
We who walk the path that leads to death-“
To what should it be compared?
To the frost by the road that leads to the graveyard
Vanishing with each step we take:
How sad is this dream of a dream!

Noriyoshi (artist) Niu Yukiko

The narrative is rich in detail and description, painting a picture of Ancient Japan that makes you feel a part of it. The sensory details are spread equally among the five instead of neglecting the taste and smell that sometimes trip up an author. As I say, this is a long series, starting in 1993 and continuing until today. I will be immersed in Ancient Japan for some time.

 Then the two of them walked down the street to the noodle restaurant. The place was little more than a roadside food stall. Its sliding doors stood wide open; only a short blue curtain hanging from the eaves protected it from the outdoors. Inside, along the left wall, a strip of earth floor led through the small dining room to the kitchen, where two women toiled amid steam and smoke over a charcoal stove. Their huge cauldrons sent forth the enticing odor of broth made with garlic, soy sauce, miso, and scallions. An old man dressed in a blue cotton kimono and headband stood behind the counter that partially divided the dining room from the kitchen.

Midnight Diner on Netflix

ilial duty, honor, and service to one’s master are all top priorities. The whole society is based on these things, so when personal ambitions, desires, and truth to oneself crop up, there are some major complications that cause shuddering ramifications to all kinds of people from all kinds of walks of life. This society is very fragile, and there is no room for disobedience, even when disobeying is the “right” thing to do. In this story, it is never the right thing to do. So what happens when our protagonist, Sano Ichiro does it? Well, a heck of a lot more than one might expect!

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