A veteran investigator in feudal Japan probes a suspicious death with enormous political consequences.
May 1704. As the capital city of Edo (Tokyo today) is still struggling to recover from a massive earthquake several months earlier, a nurse tends Tsuruhime, the shogun's daughter, who's stricken with smallpox. Her death sends the court into turmoil, since the shogun has no other immediate heir. Opinions are sharply divided about whether to name the handsome teenager Yoshisato as successor. Chamberlain Sano Ichiro (The Incense Game, 2012, etc.) has been investigating Yoshisato's parentage for several months and turned up no evidence to contradict the claim of Yoshisato's adoptive father, Yanagisawa, that the boy is actually the son of the shogun. Sano, who's been a sworn enemy of the corrupt Yanagisawa for his entire 15-year tenure at court, doesn't believe the story. But crossing the shogun's right hand is another matter, and Sano's pregnant wife, Reiko, only wants peace for their growing family. No doubt knowing of the tension, the shogun replaces Sano with Yanagisawa and names the former investigator "Chief Rebuilding Magistrate." Everything changes when Tsuruhime's stepmother, Lady Nobuko, and her lady-in-waiting pay a surprise visit to Sano's mansion and claim that the young woman was murdered. Sano can't help being excited to tackle such a challenging mystery and reunite with his old team of investigators, Marume and Hirata foremost among them. But Sano's efforts trigger a plan of revenge that could destroy both him and his family.
Rowland's 17th showcases both her stylistic elegance and her historical knowledge. The deepening portraits of series characters will amply reward faithful fans.