Sano Ichiro is used to subtle dangers, like daggers in the back; now he faces outright civil war between two armies massing in the City of Edo.
The Shogun’s Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations and People serves a weak master whom two strong, ambitious courtiers are determined to control. The Shogun’s cousin, Lord Matsudaira, has challenged the Chamberlain Yanagisawa’s ascendancy over his sovereign and former lover, and war between their followers is only a matter of time. When Makino Narasada, senior member of the Council of Elders, demands posthumously that Sano investigate his death, the samurai’s hard-won neutrality is threatened. Saddled with an overseer from each faction, Sano nonetheless uncovers details of Narasada’s sex life, which, for an octogenarian, was surprisingly involved. There are many other sordid sexual escapades to investigate as well, including those of Lord Matsudaira’s nephew and, maintaining the balance of power, the Chamberlain Yanagisawa’s son. Reiko, Sano’s wife, overcomes her trauma from a previous adventure (The Dragon King’s Palace, 2003) to go undercover, while Sano’s chief retainer, Hirata, remains handicapped by his shame from having disobeyed Sano. Shame and honor are redistributed, however, in a surprising climax.
In her eighth quasi-historical chronicle, Rowland, always preoccupied by the conjunction of sex and politics, pushes aside the mystery altogether to stir up a stew of sexual and political intrigue, above which Sano stoically rises.