Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book Review - The Fire Kimono by Laura Joh Rowland

Author : Laura Joh Rowland
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur; 1st edition (November 11, 2008)
Synopsis: The strife between Sano Ichiro, the samurai detective who has risen to power in the shogun's court, and his enemies has escalated to the brink of war. Called away from the crisis by the shogun's orders to investigate a mysterious skeleton Sano and his wife, Reiko, must confront dangerous, long buried secrets. What was Sano's own mother doing on the night when a burning kimono ignited a blaze that destroyed the city of Edo? The shogun gives Sano and Reiko just three days to find out—or risk losing not only their position at court but their families lives as well.
Review

I have been following the Sano Ichiro series for a long time now, if not from the first. While I love this samurai/historical detective series itself, the individual stories comprising the series have been more of a hit-or-miss kind. The novel preceding this one, The Snow Empress, was more on the miss side, seeing as it was full of supernatural elements and taking place far from the place intrigue of Edo which is the traditional setting of this series.

This story, however, more than makes up for its disappointing predecessor. It's filled to the brim, indeed overflowing, with the palace intrigue, political and military maneuvering that fans of this series have come to love and expect. Rowland is in her element stirring up the boiling cauldron of resentment and ambition that a weak Shogun's vascillations have resulted in the Edo region of Japan. The intrigue, the history, the characters, the machinations - they're all beautifully and cleverly brought together through Rowland's slick plotting. It's not just totally political. As always, personal relationships, conflicts and romance are at the heart of the 43-year old mystery that Sano has to race against time to solve before his own family is destroyed, along with perhaps the entire regime itself.

Cons

Not many cons with this story. Although my favorite character, Sano's wife Reiko, doesn't actively participate in the actual detection part of the story (as she did in some of the earlier novels), she's still an integral part of the story. The one thing I did find a little disappointing was the mystery itself which, in my opinion, turned out to be a damp squib towards the end.

In Short

It's thrilling, it's expertly crafted, and it's good! Probably one of the best in this series.

Buy the Book - here.
Visit the Author's site - here.
Visit the Publisher - here.
Read Excerpt

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