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Red Chrysanthemum: A Thriller (Sano Ichiro Mysteries) Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 14, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews
Book 11 of 18 in the Sano Ichiro Novels Series

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, November 14, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Rowland's 11th 17th-century Japanese historical (after 2005's The Assassin's Touch) is even more of a page-turner than its predecessors. Sano Ichiro has risen through the ranks from his position as the shogun's special investigator to the powerful station of chamberlain, but the shift in his duties has not shielded him from political opponents. He faces his greatest crisis yet when his terrified pregnant wife, Reiko, is discovered naked and blood-covered beside the corpse of a nobleman suspected of treason. Aided by his friend and successor, Hirata, the dogged and principled samurai sleuth must probe both personal and political motives for the crime, even as he entertains doubts about his beloved's innocence. Rowland matches her talent for storytelling with her ability to render convincing historical detail in this long-running but fresh series. (Nov.)
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"Sano may carry a sword and wear a kimono, but you'll immediately recognize him as an ancestor of Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade." --The Denver Post
"Rowland has a painter's eye for the minutiae of court life, as well as a politician's ear for intrigue." --The New York Times Book Review
"Rowland uses her fine eye for detail to portray the intricate surface and roiling underbelly of life in a tightly structured, controlled society. Her Japan is a mix of Kabuki theater-like stylized formality, palace intrigue, and physical action that would do a martial arts move proud." --The Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
"A careful, beautiful portrayal of a dangerous time in Japanese history . . . Rowland has created a compelling and lively series." --Dallas Morning News
 "As a fan of Shogun, it's easy to say that The Samurai's Wife provided me with the same sense of place and culture that was so invigorating in James Clavell's epic yarn. . . . Laura Joh Rowland is a pretty terrific storyteller." --Chicago Tribune
"The compelling story line, evocative detail and suspense should engage newcomers and satisfy longtime fans alike. At a point when many series show signs of wear, Rowland's characters remain fresh." --Publishers Weekly on The Assassin's Touch

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Product Details

  • Series: Sano Ichiro Mysteries (Book 11)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (November 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312355327
  • ASIN: B0012LUMRW
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,116,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have been a long-time fan of this series and own all the books. I eagerly await each new Sano Ichiro release. The great cover on this latest installment had me all pumped up to read it . . .and I came away quite disappointed. Great cover or no, this is the first book in the series that I won't be purchasing. Rowland's period detail is, as always, spot-on, but I felt that both the action and the character development suffered this time around. This outing feels very rushed, almost like a Cliffs Notes version of a more well-rounded Rowland thriller. I think the author has painted herself into a corner with Sano's promotion to Chamberlain. Compared to his former post of Sosokan-sama, Sano finds himself with very little to do except tedious court appearances, and it's a real stretch to get him involved in cases with anything like his old verve. Reiko-san, too, has suffered in her elevation to esteemed court matron. Most of her spunk and seemingly all of her intelligence has disappeared. Sano was never a very warm or accessible character, but his deeply-felt relationships with his wife and with his loyal retainer, Hirata, gave him some humanity. The relationship Sano had with Hirata was the centerpiece of past books; now with Sano's promotion and Hirata occupying his master's former post, they hardly see one another. A subplot involving Hirata's secret study of a deadly, mystical martial-arts form is vague and uninvolving. Rowland seems to hint, with one brief chapter, that things will get shaken up in the next book, with the escape from his island prison of the nefarious Yanagisawa. But the chapter dedicated to him in this book reads more like an outline of the more fully fleshed-out chapter she should have written.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
I've reached what you might think of as a crisis point with this series. I've given Rowland a lot of five star reviews for these books. About 10, I believe. They have continued to fascinate me as mysteries and for their insight into the politics and life of medieval Japan. A time when barbaric cruelty and oppressive social customs combine with exquisite artwork, literature, and craftsmanship. It was a time of great conflict and Rowland seems to have mastered its complexities.

Sano Ichiro is a wonderful character. Staying true to his ethical standards he has solved crimes, kept the shogunate from crumbling he gradually rises to one of the most powerful positions in the country. In many ways he is a samurai's samurai -- and a rag's to riches story as well. But most of his successes are due more to his ability to recover from his wife Reiko's mistakes. Up to a point the plot device of the stubborn, well-meaning samurai wife is digestible. But Reiko seems unable to understand that getting involved in the deadly politics of the capital will inevitably put Sano at risk.

This habit reaches a peak in Red Chrysanthemum, in which Reiko decides to investigate a missing child on her own and finds herself naked, in the bedroom of the man she was investigating, with the killing dagger clutched in her hand. She is accused of murder and Ichiro's enemies arrange things to that he may very well have to execute her if he is to save face, and the lives of his son and himself. Sano barely manages to get permission from the Shogun to investigate on his own and the race is on. His long time enemy Hoshina sets traps everywhere, and the powerful Lord Matsudaira suspects Ichiro of plotting treason.
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Format: Hardcover
Red Chrysanthemum is the first book I've read in the Sano Ichiro series. Obviously, a lot happened leading up to this book but it was reasonably easy to catch onto the book's main context. So if you haven't read any other books in the series, you can feel comfortable starting with this one.

This book almost defies genre because there are both mystery and thriller elements, and the book is set in 1698 Japan. The historical and national perspectives strongly permeate the book.

If you don't know the series, Sano Ichiro is a very clever fellow . . . a samurai who has been a detective. His success in that role has brought him to heights of power. The Shogun normally rules in name only and Sano is his chamberlain, a sort of prime minister. Lord Matsudaira actually wields power and is Sano's primary patron. But powerful figures seek all that power for themselves.

Sano's wife, Reiko, is pregnant with their second child but continues to seek ways to help women in need and to solve mysteries. That activity leads both Sano and Reiko into dangerous peril in this action-filled thriller.

As the book opens, Reiko is discovered nude and covered with blood in the bed chamber of the dead Lord Mori who lies castrated beside her. She cannot remember how she got there. The clamor immediately begins for her execution for the murder of Lord Mori. Mori's wife stoutly contends that Mori and Reiko had been lovers.

Sano begins his investigation and quickly finds that the price of his own survival may be the death of his wife and unborn child. As the investigation continues, his political enemies see their chance to take him down. Before long, both Sano and Reiko are in mortal peril from the Shogun and Lord Matsudaira.
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