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The Snow Empress: A Thriller (Sano Ichiro Mysteries) Mass Market Paperback – November 4, 2008

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Product Details

  • Series: Sano Ichiro Mysteries (Book 12)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; Reprint edition (November 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312945353
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312945350
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 4.2 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,064,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Demonstrating an impressive level of sustained excellence, Rowland's mysteries set in 17th-century Japan form one of the best recent series in the genre. The 12th episode (after 2006's Red Chrysanthemum) delves deeper into the politics of an empire ruled by a figurehead as the background for a compelling and thrilling whodunit. Rowland continues to conjure up new hurdles for her sleuth, Sano Ichiro, recently elevated to the position of chamberlain. His power and integrity inevitably offend more venal politicians, one of whom arranges the abduction of Sano's young son, Masahiro. Sano's quest for the kidnappers coincides with a mission to the remote northern city of Ezogashima, where an insane local ruler is holding the entire community hostage as he searches for the murderer of his mistress, an exotic foreigner known as the Snow Empress. Compelling pacing and well-rounded characters enhance the intriguing plot and will draw in new readers as well as longtime fans. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“One of the best mysteries of the year.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Rowland has a painter’s eye…[and] a politician’s ear for intrigue.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Palace intrigue and physical action that would do a martial arts movie proud.”—The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)

More About the Author

L AURA JOH ROWL AND, the author of thirteen previous Sano Ichiro mysteries 'demonstrating an impressive level of sustained excellence' (Publishers Weekly), lives in New York.

Customer Reviews

Now, don't get me wrong.
Searching for Themiscyra
The descriptions and twists and turns are so well written.
Barry Bailey
The plot was contrived and boring.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The jacket design of Laura Joh Rowland's "The Snow Empress" features a stunning illustration of a bleeding, kimono-clad woman standing in front of a ghostly temple. This haunting image attracts the eye with its beauty and mystery. It is 1699 and in Edo, Japan, Chamberlain Sano Ichiro (the samurai detective) and his wife Reiko are sick with worry when their eight-year-old son Masahiro suddenly disappears. Several months pass. Sano learns that his political rival, Lord Matsudaira, has abducted Masahiro, who is being held prisoner in Ezogashima, a freezing and forbidding island in the north. Reiko leaves her baby girl in the care of a trusted friend and accompanies her husband on a voyage to rescue their beloved Masahiro. When they reach their destination, their ship runs aground in a blizzard. Soon they are confronted by a primitive tribe of barbarians, the Ezo, who warn them, "For your own good, go back where you came from."

Ezogashima is a strange and unsettling place where the normal rules of life do not apply. Lord Matsumae, who is sworn to obey the Tokugawa regime and its shogun, has been governing the southwest corner of this region for the past twenty years. However, ever since his beloved mistress, the bewitching Tekare, was murdered, her spirit has possessed him and he has gradually lapsed into insanity. He will not eat, bathe, or attend to affairs of state until the murderer is found and brought to justice. Although Sano has come to this forsaken outpost solely to find his son, out of necessity he strikes a deal with Matsumae. Sano promises to find out who killed Tekare if Matsumae will guarantee him and his entourage safe passage and will also agree to stop exploiting and oppressing the Ezo.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hikari on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In my review of Rowland's last effort, last year's "Red Chrysanthemum", I wondered if this series hadn't jumped the shark, and hoped that the author could rectify her mistakes in the next book. "The Snow Empress" goes a small way toward redeeming her last installment, but I still feel like the shark has a grip on a limb or two. Rowland consistently gets starred reviews, but it seems to me, like Patricia Cornwell, that she is sliding along on her well-deserved earlier reputation and not on current efforts. Later Sano books have suffered from an overambitous scope, and the author indulges that tendency wildly here, dispatching Sano, Reiko, and an entourage to Hokkaido (called Ezogashima in the Edo period), where they are promptly shipwrecked in the briefest, most prefunctory shipwreck in literary history. Rowland writes masterful scenes of court intrigue, but since that's what she's really interested in, she has tendency to rush through her big action sequences. I submit that a fatal shipwreck in icy waters off Hokkaido requires more than half a page to adequately describe, but that's all she gives us, as if any reasonable reader would be satisfied. Her protaganists live, so the great loss of life suffered by all the crew members seems immaterial to her. Also, the author seems to have completely forgotten that she set the evil former Chamberlain Yanigisawa on the loose, having him escape from his island of exile in the last book in a likewise breathless chapter, because I'm nearly done and there's been no mention of him so far.

As Sano has risen from humble police detective to Sosokan-sama and now, Chamberlain, the scope of each book has gotten more and more outrageous, to the point where the author is no longer able to control, or develop all the strands of plot she's got going.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Searching for Themiscyra on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Let me start out this review by emphasizing that I have been a longtime fan of Laura Joh Rowland's Sano Ichiro series. I picked up the "The Concubine's Tattoo" several years ago and I have never looked back. Granted, I read the books a little out of order, but I was consistently pleased by Rowland's ability to not only craft a great historical mystery series, but also a host of characters I loved (even the villains).

Now the question is (and it does pain me to write this)... WHAT HAPPENED?

I am going to start out with a list of what I liked about this book.

1.) Ezogashima (Hokkaido)--I admit I don't know a lot about Hokkaido and the Ainu, and nothing about what Hokkaido was like in 1699. It was great to learn about the culture and customs of the Ainu, the Japanese/Ainu conflicts, and even the strange mystical/supernatural goings-on that seemed to populate Ezogashima. Also, the way Rowland describes Ezogashima--as a cold, desolate, eerie place--was very good and it sucked me into the setting.

2.) Set-up for Sano's future exploits--the stuff with Lord Matsudaira and his nefarious plans to oust Sano ensures that I will pick up the next book (however skeptical I am about the state of the series).

3.) Historical tidbits--There's a lot of information in this book (and in all Rowland's other books) about Japanese social life 300+ years ago. These bits are very interesting and make a sub-par plot tolerable.

Now, here's where I get into the things that annoyed me about this book (and the turn the series has taken in general). If you don't want to hear my ranting, feel free to skip to the next review.

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