Konishi Zenta, the 16th-century samurai and astute detective first met in The Samurai and the Long-Nosed Devils and White Serpent Castle (both 1976), and his junior partner Ishihara Matsuzo thread their way deftly through another complex, ethically nuanced adventure. Returning penniless to an inn where Zenta once distinguished himself, they are horrified by the mutiliation of some of the celebrated local cherry trees and puzzled by the truculent, ungainly youth, obviously well-born, who lurks about unoccupied and unattended. Why does Lord Ohmori's shifty son warn them against concerning themselves with the boy? Why does icy Lady Sayo, wife of Ohmori's overlord Kawai, warn them against concerning themselves with the cherry trees? Why is the boy, Torazo, who asks Zenta for lessons in swordsmanship, so inept, so mis-instructed? Mysteries abound--pointing first to a plot to set up the unhappy, ill-favored boy, Lord Kawai's son and heir, as the tree-mutilator. Before it is unraveled, Zenta and Matsuzo will have caused a comic shambles (and escaped death) and a cherry-viewing party, Matsuzo and Lord Kawai will have performed incognito (and indelibly) in a Noh play, the two unemployed samurai will have turned down one after another lucrative offer. . . and of course proved Torazo's worth to his father and uncovered the cherry-tree mutilator (a real surprise). That the many, many characters have distinct personalities and motives, that the whole imbroglio accurately reflects the internal turmoil of the period, adds substance and continuous interest to what is also spanking entertainment.