The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria
St. Martin's Minotaur, April, 2002.
Hardcover, 292 pages.
After his last case (See, Black Lotus), Sano Ichiro, the shogun's Most Honourable Investigator of Events, Situations and People is exhausted, as is his beloved wife, Reiko. The last case caused a rift in their marriage, and the poor judgment Reiko exhibited has left her feeling insecure about her abilities. When the Shogun's heir is found murdered in Yoshiwara, the pleasure quarter of 17th century Edo (Tokyo), Sano is ordered to find the killer without delay. The courtesan who was with Lord Mitsuyoshi before his death was the infamous and beautiful Lady Wisteria, who was known for keeping a private diary, or pillow book. Both Wisteria and the pillow book are now missing. And Sano's numerous enemies at court are determined to solve the case before he does or, better yet, pin the crime on Sano himself. And Sano himself is worried that Reiko will discover his own past association with Wisteria, which could destroy their faltering marriage.
Sano and Reiko face problems both public and private in this well-crafted mystery. The machinations of the courtiers in the Tokugawa court are positively Machiavellian. Careers and lives can be ended on a whim of the weak-willed Shogun, who is surrounded by hangers-on who constantly maneuver to gain favor in the ruler's eye. Sano himself is an honorable man, and he detests the games he must play in order to keep his family safe -- and solvent. The plot is labyrinthine, just like the politics of the time, and Ms. Rowland effortlessly transports the reader back to the 17th century Japan for a very enjoyable time travel experience. Highly recommended.
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