It's 1603. As samurai warrior Matsuyama Kaze, bereft of his lord, wanders Japan's Yamato District, he comes upon a sight distressingly common in these days of civil war: a stranger felled by an arrow at a crossroads where one path leads to the village of Suzaka. This this isn't any ordinary corpse, though, as a brief fencing match between Kaze and District Magistrate Nagato Takamasu reveals. The victim has been killed elsewhere and carried to the crossroad, and not by the obvious suspect, bandit chief Boss Kuemon, either. While Nagato's boss, Yamato District Lord Manase, is eager to crucify Jiro, the charcoal seller who came upon the body just before Kaze did, he graciously allows Kaze a few days to investigate: ""It's all the same to me which villager is killed for this murder. It might as well be the one who actually did it."" So Kaze, a good man with a sword and a wily enough samurai to know when he doesn't need it, goes to work with all the reflectiveness of Adam Dalgliesh, producing a body count worthy of Mike Hammer. Only when most of the cast is dead does he finger a killer most readers, even if they lack Kaze's Bushido skills, will have identified long since. Though Furutani doesn't inhabit the period as deeply as Laura Joh Rowland does--there's a particularly jarring Abbott and Costello routine on the way to examine the first body--this opening entry in a samurai trilogy is much more solid work than the author's two modern-dress mysteries (The Toyotomi Blades, 1997, etc.).