A second case for samurai Sano Ichiro, elevated to Tokugawa Tsunayoshi's Most Honorable Investigator after his success in Shinju (1994). Someone is killing the citizens of 17th-century Edo and mounting their heads publicly as battle trophies, bundori. Sano's shogun appoints him to find the killer, but the real power behind Tsunayoshi, his Chamberlain Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, makes it plain to Sano (though not to their common lord) that he intends to thwart the investigation at every turn, overriding the shogun's command that the Edo police assist Sano and setting Aoi, the mystic and chief shrine commander, to spy on Sano. Sano, gradually realizing that the sensual Aoi--whom he'd been counting on to pass on to him information she garnered from communicating with the souls of the four victims--is not to be trusted, is caught in an impossible situation, since the stringent code of bushido prevents him from criticizing Yanagisawa as a slur on their shogun's judgment. Acting on information supplied by his friends, chief archivist Noguchi Motoori and Edo Morgue superintendent Dr. Ito Genboku--and by the equivocal Aoi as well--Sano traces the executions to a century-old military intrigue. But what is he to do when his field of suspects is narrowed down to Edo's foremost merchant, the Captain of the Guard, a legendary (and formidably protected) concubine, and the treacherous chamberlain himself?. Not as rich and resourceful as Sano's striking debut--the demands of bushido are asked to carry too much of the interest--but Rowland still masterfully evokes the subtleties and contradictions of 17th-century Japan.