A veteran Japanese sleuth endangers himself to solve a tantalizing samurai murder mystery.
1703. In the middle of a blizzard, 47 samurai troops move silently through the frigid streets, stopping at a nondescript home from which they drag out an old man. With one stroke of his blade, the leader severs the man's head, and a little boy blows a shrill whistle to indicate the task is done. The next morning, at Edo Castle, Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi is in a typically choleric mood. When Chamberlain Sano Ichiro (The Cloud Pavilion, 2009, etc.) intercedes after a particularly severe sentence, the shogun demotes him to a previous post, that of detective inspector in the police department. The ramifications of this action reverberate at home, where Sano's son fights schoolmates who mock his father and Sano's wife, Lady Reiko, gets the disappointing news from her matchmaker that the family has been rejected as unsuitable for a promising marriage. The apparently unenviable task of solving the samurai murder could be Sano's opportunity to work his way back into the shogun's good graces. But the further away from the castle he ventures to investigate, the more venomously his enemies at court wag their tongues to sabotage him. To solve the crime, Sano must go into the heart of danger.
Based on a true story explained in an opening historical note, Sano's 15th appearance unfolds with Rowland's typical elegance, bolstered by its roots in reality and the family drama that nicely counterpoints the sleuthing adventure.