The Perfumed Sleeve
St. Martin's Minotaur, April, 2004.
Hardcover, 326 pages.
Who says that the dead cannot cause immense trouble? Not Sano Ichiro, the Shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations and People. When Makino Narasade, a senior official in the Emperor's Court and longtime enemy of Sano's, is found dead Sano receives a missive from the dead man claiming that he has been murdered and demanding that Sano investigate. Furious, Sano is caught in a terrible position. Honor requires that he undertake the investigation, but the two prime suspects are members of the two powerful clans who are angling for the throne of Japan. Sano has so far managed so stay alive in the poisonous atmosphere of the court by steadfastly maintaining his neutrality in the political infighting that surrounds the weak-willed Emperor. Lord Matsudaira, cousin to the Emperor, and Chamberlain Yangisawa are duelling to put their favorites on the throne and both demand that Sano slant the investigation to favor their interests. Civil war looms as Sano undertakes the distasteful investigation that could mean his execution if he names the wrong guilty party.
Sano's wife, Reiko, recovers enough from her kidnapping ordeal (See, the Dragon King's Palace), to assist Sano in investigating the complicated life of the eighty-something Narasada. Their investigation takes them from brothels to temples to the very halls of power. With powerful images of the City of Edo, and two very likeable protagonists, Laura Joh Rowland makes ancient Japan and its customs accessible to modern readers. With a labyrinthine plot and a strong supporting cast, The Perfumed Sleeve is the best entry yet in this compelling historical mysery series.
--Claire E. White
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This review was published in the July-August, 2004 of The Internet Writing Journal.
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