14 August 2014

Review: BUNDORI, Laura Joh Rowland

  • first published in 1996, this edition published by Constable Robinson 2009
  • ISBN 978-1-84529-902-6
  • 409 pages
  • #2 in the Sano Ichiro series
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (author site)

In the misty streets and alleys of Edo, Japan's feudal capital, a serial killer lurks. Each victim is rendered up as a severed head, nailed to a plank, offered for public display as a bundori: a war trophy in samurai military tradition.

Detective Sano Ichiro, newly promoted to the new position as the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator, tries valiantly to follow Bushido—the Way of the Warrior—as he strives to bring the killer to justice. Will his attempts be foiled by the villainous Chamberlain Yanagisawa? Or will he succeed through the help of the beautiful and mysterious Aoi, a mystic trained in the ninja arts?

As it becomes obvious that the killer is one of three powerful men, Sano must reconcile his noble heritage with his duty to the shogun. Will trapping the murderer lead to prestige and glory for Sano...or disgrace and forced ritual suicide?

My Take

The setting of this book is historical, and one that I am familiar with: the Tokugawa Shogunate at Edo in Japan, 1689. There are now (2014) 18 titles in this popular series spanning 1689 to 1709. The historical and cultural setting is richly and authentically described. I began with the second in the series as my library does not have the first available. There are references in this title to the events in the first book.

As the number of victims of the Bundori Killer mounts various districts of the capital go into panic and there are fires and vigilantes and the Shogun gives Sano four days to find the killer or face exile himself. Sano constantly reminds himself of the promise he made to his dying father to bring the family name into a position of honour, but for a while it looks as if he will only achieve disgrace.

The Shogun, Tsunayoshi Tokugawa, relies heavily on his Chamberlain Yanagisawa who seems determined to point out Sano's failures. Readers of modern day police procedurals may well reflect that nothing much has changed.

An enjoyable and satisfying read.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Laura Joh Rowland is a detective/mystery author best known for her series of historical mystery novels set in the late days of feudal Japan, mostly in Edo during the late 17th century. Her main protagonist is Sano IchirĊ.

See author website

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

This does look interesting, Kerrie. And I like the historical setting and context too. Thanks

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