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Shinju by Laura Joh Rowland

Shinju (original 1994; edition 1996)

by Laura Joh Rowland

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7041513,451 (3.77)20
Authors:Laura Joh Rowland
Info:HarperTorch (1996), Mass Market Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Tags:Mystery, Japan, police procedural

Work details

Shinjū by Laura Joh Rowland (1994)

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
A murder mystery set in mediaeval Japan! What's not to like? Sano Ichiro becomes the main investigator for the shogun. The politics of the time are very tenuous and at times become obstacles to doing his job. Failure can mean death in a lot of cases. This is a very witty series, with plenty of action and plot twists to keep you reading further to find out what happens next. Laura Joh Rowland also does not shy away from some of the more controversial practices of the times as well as the barbaric actions that would have been prevalent among 18th century samurai. Great read! I would recommend for mystery enthusiast, and forensics aficionados alike. ( )
  Van_Blake | Feb 29, 2016 |
In Japan of the 1670's, Sano Ichiro's elderly, ailing father has pulled some strings to get him appointed yoriki (which seems to be much like a police sergeant). However, from the very start, Sano finds himself in conflict at his job - his superior orders him to quietly bury the embarrassing discovery of the bodies of a wealthy young noblewoman and a commoner known for his erotic artworks - apparently a double suicide based on their doomed love. But Sano has a feeling that this was not suicide but murder - and with the evidence gained through an illegal autopsy and a bit of investigation, his hunch grows even stronger.
However, even as Sano turns up more evidence pointing at a web of blackmail, pornography and prostitution, sadism and even treason, his personal situation grows more and more precarious, as he stands in danger of losing his position, his patron, and even his family honor.
Rowland has jam-packed her book with details and anecdotes of Japan, making for a colorful background - but the story itself seems to be a very modern murder-mystery overlaid against this background, rather than a story that naturally emerges from the time period, characters and culture she has chosen.
Also - it may be a quibble, but her description of a sushi bar at one point in the story describes a style of cuisine and its presentation which I truly believe would not have been present in Japan until around 1800 - over 100 years after the setting of this story. Although I am not an expert on the details of Japanese history, this throws doubt on many of her other historical details. I also have doubts about the women's Sumo sex show. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Sano Ichiro is a newly appointed yoriki (policeman) in 17th Century Feudal Japan. His father, now becoming old and sick, has called in a favor to get Sano an honored position in the police department. Sano is immediately disliked and resented by his colleagues. The story begins when the daughter of a powerful Edo family, Lady Yukiko, and a low born artist named Noriyoshi are found bound together in a double love suicide called a Shinju. Sano is assigned to do a cursory investigation of the dishonorable event. Something about the case doesn't seem correct to Sano, so despite orders from his bosses he continues his investigation.

Throughout the story Sano jeopardizes his career and family honor to solve the case. He's an idealist in a world of political corruption and feels a real conflict between obedience and honor. He's an unusual and unconventional man of his time, anguished by his sense of Samurai honor.

This mystery had a nicely complex plot that blended Japan's political rivalries and Samurai heritage and culture into a wonderfully readable story. I loved the very detailed atmosphere of Edo and Japan during the rule of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. I thought it was a real page turner and I've already picked up the second of the series, Bundori.
( )
  Olivermagnus | Jan 17, 2016 |
Delightful historical mystery set in feudal Japan of the 17th century. Yoriki [Police Commander] Sano Ichiro is confronted with a supposed shinju [double suicide of two lovers]. Sano, with the help of Dr. Ito, prison doctor, ascertains that there were two murders. Dr. Ito performs an autopsy, which is forbidden by Japanese law at that time, as "Western." Against orders of Sano's superior, Sano sets about finding the culprit. During his investigation, a conspiracy to assassinate the shogun is uncovered and Sano races to foil the plot. When Sano comes face to face with the villain, the ensuing struggle is heart-stopping.

Sano is an engaging character and is driven by the samurai code of Bushido which includes duty, filial piety, and searching out the truth at whatever cost. Rowland set out Japanese social mores and culture in her novel. We witness a funeral and a tea ceremony. Descriptions were rich and vivid. These were the best part of the novel and opened my eyes to an unfamiliar culture. We get an insight into the Japanese psyche. I am glad Sano has seventeen other cases that I plan to follow. The author has created an imaginative and creative series. ( )
  janerawoof | Jan 26, 2015 |
It took a while to get into this book--lots of long descriptions and not much action in the beginning, but the final third of the story delivered. Now that the author has hit her stride, I might try the next in the series. ( )
  MarysGirl | Dec 4, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rowland, Laura Johprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Roberts, JoeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my parents, Lena and Raymond Joh
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The horseman halted his mount on a narrow path that led to the Sumida River, listening to the night.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061009504, Mass Market Paperback)

When beautiful, wealthy Yukiko and low-born artist Noriyoshi are found drowned together in a shinju, or ritual double suicide, everyone believes the culprit was forbidden love. Everyone but newly appointed yoriki Sano Ichiro.

Despite the official verdict and warnings from his superiors, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People suspects the deaths weren't just a tragedy -- they were murder. Risking his family's good name and his own life, Sano will search for a killer across every level of society -- determined to find answers to a mystery no one wants solved. No one but Sano...

As subtle and beautiful as the culture it evokes, Shinju vividly re-creates a world of ornate tearooms and guady pleasure-palaces, cloistered mountaintop convents and dealthy prisons.

Part love story, part myster, Shinju is a tour that will dazzle and entertain all who enter its world.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:16 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In seventeenth-century Japan, Sano, a teacher and detective, investigates the ritual "suicide" drownings of a peasant and a noblewoman, supposed star-crossed lovers, and uncovers an intricate plot of political intrigue and murder.

(summary from another edition)

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