A 17th-century Japanese sleuth must clear his pregnant wife of a murder charge.
Tokyo, 1698. In the middle of the night, Most Honorable Investigator Hirata bursts into the grand estate of Lord Mori, recently at political odds with his cousin Lord Matsudaira. Hirata expects to bring the equivocal nobleman in for questioning on suspicion of treason. Instead, he finds Lord Mori brutally murdered and disemboweled next to Reiko, the pregnant wife of Hirata’s master Sano, the chamberlain. Sano’s position saves Reiko from immediate arrest and incarceration. Flashbacks give her side of the story: A young teahouse dancer named Lily has appealed to Reiko to help locate her abducted son. Lord Mori, a pedophile who regularly kidnaps boys for his sexual pleasure, is the culprit. (While not illegal, the practice is severely disapproved of and, if known, would ruin Lord Mori.) Reiko, who has become a trusted friend of Lord Mori and his dowdy wife in order to expose him, has no memory of his murder. The glamorous Lady Mori, far from the wallflower Reiko has described, tells a very different story, angrily accusing Reiko of having an affair with her husband and murdering him. As in Sano’s previous cases (The Assassin’s Touch, 2005, etc.), Reiko strikes out on her own to find answers, well aware that her life is at stake.
Rowland’s historical detail and graceful prose enhance another solid mystery.