Mystery/Thriller Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal, June 2003

Page Two of Three

The Dragon King's Palace by Laura Joh Rowland

St. Martin's Minotaur, April, 2003
Hardcover, 340 pages
ISBN: 0312282664
Ordering information: |

The Dragon King's Palace
 by Laura Joh Rowland Sano Ichiro, the Shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations and People faces his worst nightmare when his wife, Reiko, is kidnapped by a mysterious bandit who calls himself the Dragon King. The Dragon King also kidnapped the Shogun's acid-tongued mother, Lady Keisho-in, Lady Yanagisawa, the wife of the Shogun's wily chamberlain, and Midori, the pregnant wife of Sano's assistant, Hirata. The kidnapping occurred during the ladies' pilgrimage to Mount Fuji, which no one really wanted to participate in, but went out of fear of offending the powerful and autocratic Lady Keisho-in. Sano's investigation is hampered by the Shogun's ridiculous suggestions as to how to proceed, as well as the hidden agendas of Lord Yanagisawa and his protégé. As everyone fights to gain the glory of rescuing the ladies and appeasing the Shogun's wrath, Sano is terrified that the women's safety will be compromised by his rivals' incompetence and greed.

This is the eighth entry in this fascinating mystery series set in 17th century Japan, during the Tokugawa regime. Sano struggles to do his job, but it's not easy with all the jockeying for power at the Shogun's court that goes on. Sano's wife Reiko is no shy lotus flower, sitting around waiting to be rescued. As Sano investigates, Reiko launches her own dangerous schemes to get the women rescued. Laura Joh Rowland brings the people and customs of ancient Japan to life. From the bold Reiko to the dangerously psychotic Lady Yanagisawa to the weak and vacillating Shogun, Ms. Rowland skillfully creates characters with depth and complexity. This well-imagined story ends with a cliffhanger, leading to a potential political upheaval in the next book.

The Jester by James Patterson & Andrew Gross

Little, Brown, March, 2003
Hardcover, 457 pages
ISBN: 0316602051
Ordering information: |

The Jester
 by James Patterson & Andrew Gross In 1096, Hugh De Luc is a common innkeeper in a village that is bullied by the local nobleman. When a group of men headed for the Crusades passes through town, Hugh is encouraged by their faith and camaraderie. He decides to temporarily leave his sweet wife, Sophie, and heads off to join the men to fight in the Crusades. But the Crusades do not bring Hugh the honor and victories he hoped; he finds only bloodshed and horrors. Distraught, he returns home alone after many bloody battles. When he arrives home he is devastated by the terrible news he receives. His wife has been taken away and his newborn son (that he did not even know about) was thrown into a fire pit and burned alive by the nobleman collecting taxes. Hopeful his wife is still alive and determined to avenge the death of his son, Hugh heads off towards the nobleman's castle.

This is not your typical James Patterson novel, but it is certainly a terrific read. Patterson and co-author Andrew Gross have done an excellent job of writing an engrossing fantasy thriller set in the dangerous and barbaric days of medieval Europe. The book does indeed have a Jester character in it, as one might expect from the title of the book. Hugh De Luc, who has a keen wit, picks up the jester trade to allow himself to get close to the nobles he feels murdered his son and took his wife. The tale has the feel of the middle ages. It spares none of the horrors of the time period, while capturing the chivalry and romance of the day. Lovers of fantasy, adventure and romance will definitely enjoy The Jester.

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