Winner of RT Magazine's Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Historical Mystery
In the wake of a terrifying earthquake, Sano Ichiro races to solve a crime that could bring down the shogun's regime
When a massive earthquake devastates Japan in 1703, even the shogun's carefully regulated court is left teetering on the brink of chaos. This is no time for a murder investigation—except when a nobleman's daughters are found dead from incense poisoning and their father threatens to topple the regime unless Sano Ichiro tracks down the killer.
As Sano and his wife strive to solve the case in a world that is crumbling around them, Laura Joh Rowland—author of one of the "five best historical mystery novels" (The Wall Street Journal)—brings us her most powerful and evocative thriller set in Feudal Japan yet, The Incense Game.
A natural disaster serves as the focal point for Rowland's stellar 16th whodunit set in feudal Japan (after 2011's The Ronin's Mistress). In 1703, an earthquake devastates the city of Edo, claiming thousands of lives and causing major structural damage. Recovery efforts yield the bodies of two sisters and another woman, who perished playing the incense game, in which participants "burned incense samples, smelled the smoke, and attempted to guess what type they were." Evidence that the incense was poisoned leads Lord Hosokawa, the powerful father of the two sisters, to blackmail Sano Ichiro, chamberlain to the shogun, into finding his daughters' killer. Should Sano fail to do so, Hosokawa will ally himself with the nobles looking to topple the shogun, taking advantage of the rampant weaknesses of the regime, which the earthquake exacerbated. Once again, Rowland sets the bar high for her hero, who must navigate treacherous political shoals as well as deduce the killer's identity.