In The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria, Laura Joh Rowland once again has written a book in which "an exotic setting, seventeenth-century Japan, and a splendid mystery...make for grand entertainment" (New York Daily News).
In the carefully ordered world of seventeenth-century Japan, the Yoshiwara pleasure quarter is a place where men of all classes can drink, revel, and enjoy the favors of beautiful courtesans. But on a cold winter's dawn, Sano Ichiro--the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People--must visit Yoshiwara on a most unpleasant mission.
Within a house of assignation reserved for the wealthiest, most prominent men, a terrible murder has occurred. In a room that reeks of liquor and sex, the shogun's cousin and heir, Lord Mitsuyoshi, lies dead, a flowered hairpin embedded in his eye, in the bed of the famous courtesan, Lady Wisteria.
The shogun demands quick justice, but Sano's path is blocked by many obstacles, including the disappearance of Wisteria and her pillow book, a diary that may contain clues. The politics of court life, the whims of the shogun, and interference by his long time rival, Edo's Chief Police Commissioner Hoshina, also hinder Sano in his search for the killer. Sano's wife, Lady Reiko, is eager to help him, but he fears what she may uncover. When suspicion of murder falls upon Sano himself, he must find the real murderer to solve the case and clear his name.
Delicate prose and a plot full of the overtones and undercurrents that shade real life push Rowland's latest historical beyond the standard whodunit. In 17th-century Japan, Sano Ichiro the shogun's "Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People" has had little time to recover from the disturbing events recounted in Black Lotus(2001) when he's called on to solve a murder of deep political consequence. The shogun's cousin and probable heir has been slain in the bedchamber of Lady Wisteria, a high-priced courtesan, who has gone missing. Every step Sano takes brings the possibility of personal ruin, as the shogun's favor is fickle and Sano has powerful, sly political enemies. Self-doubt and mistrust of others are souvenirs of the insidious black lotus case, which continually plagues Sano and those close to him; he doesn't have all of his emotional strength and his enemies are beginning to act more openly. When the murder case stalls, more subtle mysteries capture the reader's attention. How will Sano regain the upper hand against his enemies, or at least hold his ground? How will he get back in the shogun's good graces when all his suspects are being put to death for other crimes? Will he and his wife regain their trust of each other and themselves? All the animosity and fear in this seamless work is put forth in demure language that perfectly suits the culture Rowland portrays. This character- and atmosphere-driven work is sure to expand Rowland's already large fan base. Regional author tour.