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Red Chrysanthemum
By Laura Joh Rowland

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Red Chrysanthemum

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Red Chrysanthemum
A Sano Ichiro Mystery
By Laura Joh Rowland
Thorndike Press Large Print, (2007)
ISBN 10: 0-7862-9444-2
ISBN 13: 978-0-7862-9444-2
Genre: Historical Thriller / Mystery

Reviewed by Angela Evans - June 7, 2007

Set in feudal Japan during the Tokugawa regime, Red Chrysanthemum is a wonderfully detailed period piece featuring the famed Samurai detective, Sano Ichiro. Written by Laura Joh Rowland, Red Chrysanthemum is part of her Sano Ichiro mystery series. In this installment, which begins in Edo in July of 1698, Sano has risen to become the Shogun's Chamberlain, making him extensively the second-in-command. As the story opens, Sano, along with his aid and best friend, Hirata, are busy investigating rumors of a possible coup.

Their investigation takes them to Lord Mori's estate, where they find his mutilated corpse, with Sano's pregnant wife laying naked beside him, the murder weapon grasped in her hand. When they question Reiko about what happened to Mori, her answers are anything but informative, and the only clue that the investigators have to go on is a blood-soaked chrysanthemum.

Did Reiko kill Mori? If she was set up, how did the killer manage to get her in bed with the murdered man? If Reiko did not do it, why was Mori murdered, and by whom? In short, Reiko has once again placed her husband in an untenable position. Even if he can prove her innocence, there will be many at court that will say that he has used his position to clear her name and that in truth she is really guilty. Will Sano have to find his wife guilty, even if she is innocent, so that he can retain his reputation, and his position? To complicate matters, Sano's enemies, are working to make it appear as if Sano is trying to topple Lord Matsudaira from his seat of power. If this charge is believed, Sano may well be executed or forced to commit suicide. The same punishment awaits his wife and their unborn child should she be found guilty of the murder of Lord Mori.

Red Chrysanthemum is the eleventh installment in Rowland's Sano Ichiro mystery series. If this is your first introduction to the series you will find that book can be read independently of the other books. You will, however, want to go back later and read the earlier books so that you can discover more about Sano's life and exploits. Red Chrysanthemum will interests readers of both mysteries and thrillers, as well as those who like to read historical fiction. Rowland paints a detailed portrait of medieval Japan, complete with insights into the cultures and politics of the era, while also offering up a compelling story line that will maintain your interest from beginning to end.


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