In the late-17th century, a Japanese husband and wife undertake separate probes of two murders.
Outside the Edo Castle, a thoroughbred race turns tragic when one of the mounted samurai suffers a sudden unexpected pain and falls to the track to be trampled. It seems like an accident, but Sano Ichiro, in his tenth recorded case (The Perfumed Sleeve, 2004, etc.), discovers that the warrior, Ejima Senzaemon, was killed by dim-mak, an expert touch that causes its victim to bleed fatally from the head. A hard stroke kills instantly, but this one, coroner Ito explains to Sano, was deliberately gentle so as to trigger a later death. As chief of the metsuke, the Japanese national intelligence service, Ejima had many enemies. Though Sano has risen to the position of second-in-command to the shogun, discretion demands he conduct this case personally. Meanwhile, his wife Reiko is undertaking an equally sensitive investigation. A young woman named Yugao has been arrested for the brutal murder of her parents and sister, a charge she does nothing to deny. Because Yugao’s family are hinin, Japan’s lowest social caste, justice is a low priority. Reiko’s father, Magistrate Ueda, thinks his daughter can reach the girl. Reiko seems to be succeeding until Yugao escapes prison during a fire, unknowingly placing herself in greater danger.
A pair of conventional mysteries elegantly told and interspersed with delicious bits of history.