Black Lotus

by Laura Joh Rowland

St. Martin's Press, April, 2001.
Hardcover, 352 pages.
ISBN: 0312268726

Black Lotus by Laura Joh Rowland In 1693 Japan, fire is one of the most feared disasters. With the use of so much paper and wood, a small fire can quickly destroy an entire city. When a fire breaks out in the Black Lotus Temple, three people are found dead. Haru, an orphan girl is found near the scene acting quite suspiciously. Samurai-detective Sano Ichiro, the Emperor's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations and People is called in to investigate the triple homicide which is now being blamed on the unfortunate Haru. Against his better judgment, Sano asks his wife, Reiko, to assist him in interrogating the girl. Reiko is convinced of the girl's innocence, and decides to do some unauthorized investigating on her own, which infuriates Sano and causes a rift between the formerly happy couple. Meanwhile, the investigation into the Black Lotus Temple uncovers some very disturbing facts indeed: it appears that the seemingly innocent religious retreat is actually a hotbed of prostitution, extortion and possibly something even more dangerous.

Progressive for his time period, Sano has actually allowed his wife to assist him in his investigations from time to time. After all, as a female of the samurai class, Reiko can gather all kinds of information from the women that Sano would never know about. Laura Joh Rowland provides a multi-layered mystery in Sano and Reiko's latest adventure; the Temple of the Black Lotus houses some very nasty secrets indeed. But the key to the case is the pathological liar, Haru. Her story constantly changes, and she certainly trades on Reiko's protective instincts. Rowland will keep you guessing until the very last page as to Haru's motivations, and hoping that Reiko and Sano can find a way to patch up their marriage. This is another fascinating entry in an excellent historical series.

--Claire E. White

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This review was published in the June, 2001 of The Internet Writing Journal.

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