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Monday, October 7, 2013

"The Shogun's Daughter" by Laura Joh Rowland~Samuari Mystery!


Japan, 1704.  In an elegant mansion a young woman named Tsuruhime lies on her deathbed, attended by her nurse.  Smallpox pustules cover her face.  Incense burns, to banish the evil spirits of disease. After Tsuruhime takes her last breath, the old woman watching from the doorway says, “Who’s going to tell the Shogun his daughter is dead?”

The death of the Shogun's daughter has immediate consequences on his regime. There will be no grandchild to leave the kingdom. Faced with his own mortality and beset by troubles caused by the recent earthquake, he names as his heir Yoshisato, the seventeen-year-old son he only recently discovered was his. Until five months ago, Yoshisato was raised as the illegitimate son of Yanagisawa, the shogun's favorite advisor. Yanagisawa is also the longtime enemy of Sano Ichiro.

Sano doubts that Yoshisato is really the Shogun's son, believing it's more likely a power-play by Yanagisawa. When Sano learns that Tsuruhime's death may have been a murder, he sets off on a dangerous investigation that leads to more death and destruction as he struggles to keep his pregnant wife, Reiko, and his son safe. Instead, he and his family become the accused. And this time, they may not survive the day.

Laura Joh Rowland's thrilling series set in Feudal Japan is as gripping and entertaining as ever.

Praise for Laura Joh Rowland

Author of The Fire Kimono, “one of the five best historical mystery novels”—The Wall Street Journal

“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

“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


Published by:  Minotaur/Macmillan
Pages:  336
Genre:  Historical Fiction/Mystery
Author:  Laura Joh Rowland
Purchase this book:  Barnes & Noble


Laura Joh Rowland is the author of a mystery series set in medieval Japan, featuring samurai detective Sano Ichiro.  The Shogun’s Daughter is the seventeenth book in the series.  Her work has been published in 13 foreign countries, nominated for the Anthony Award and the Hammett Prize, and won the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Historical Mystery.  Laura lives in New York City.

For more information please visit Laura's website.  You can also follow her on Facebook.


We are delighted to bring you this interview with author, Laura Joh Rowland.  Thank you for visiting with A Bookish Libraria today, Ms Rowland~and for entertaining the following questions:

Q:  Tell us something about yourself, please.  How do most people describe you?

A:  I don’t know about most people, but some have probably described me as “that quiet Chinese girl” (woman, when I grew up) and then done a double-take when they found out I was a published mystery author who gets on a panel discussion and cracks up the whole room with unexpected hilarious remarks.  I guess I don’t look like somebody who would be funny.

Q:  Briefly, from where did the idea for your novel germinate?

A:  I needed unexplored territory in which to set a mystery.  I saw a lot of samurai movies while I was in college and loved them.  Do the math:  Need plus love equals 17 books about a samurai detective named Sano. 

Q:  Who first told you you could write well, and how did it affect you?

A:  I think it was my high school history teacher.  I seem to remember her returning one of my papers with a note on it that said I had a lovely bit of writing style.  It had no effect on me at the time; I totally blew it off.  I didn’t realize until almost 20 years later that writing ability was something special that I should put to good use.

Q:  Which contemporary authors do you most admire?

A:  They change all the time.  Current favorites are Martin Cruz Smith, Louise Penny, and Carol Goodman in fiction; Diane Ackerman and Joan Didion in non-fiction.

Q:  Which are your favorite classical authors?

A:  Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen.

Q:  Jump into any book~which character would you be?

A:  Bond.  James Bond.

Q:  If you could have 5 historical people to dinner, who would they be?  What would you have to eat?

A:  The Brontes:  Charlotte, Emily, Anne, Branwell, and the Reverend Bronte.  I would serve my fabulous crab cakes and raspberry pie, and lots of booze for Branwell.  (They would probably be appalled by my bad housekeeping and too polite to say so.)

Q:  Read any good books in the past 6 months?

A:  “Leonardo and the Last Supper” by Ross King.  It’s an extensively researched, non-fiction account of how Leonardo da Vinci painted his iconic painting.  I found it as thrilling as any novel.  Leonardo is a great inspiration to me.  He was a notorious procrastinator and deadline-misser, who was afraid he would never accomplish anything, but he managed to create one of the greatest works of art in history.  

Q:  Favorite two tv shows:

A:  “The Good Wife” and “Dr. Phil.”

Q:  Favorite movie of all time:

A:  “Seven Samurai” (what else?)

Q:  Are you working on a new book?

A:  The next episode of Sano’s adventures, tentatively titled “The Iris Fan.”

Q:  Anything else I forgot to ask you?

A:  What do I like to do when I’m not writing?  Paint.  I’m currently illustrating (for my own pleasure) tarot cards set in New Orleans, a city I love and where I lived for many years.

Absolutely fascinating to get to know you, Laura!  It makes your book more and more a pleasurable read.


Not at all what I expected, this book is a mystery inside a beautifully rendered oriental setting.  Laura Joh Rowland has written a story that clips along at a good pace, meant to keep an audience turning pages for the next answer in a puzzle that stays just out of reach. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel for several reasons.

First of all, it's been a while since I read such lovely details of costumes, arts and interiors of Japan.  These descriptions brought me right into the novel visually.  I could "see" the samurai warriors, Shogun and officials' robes; as well as the womens' garments.  Simply loved this element.

Secondly, the suspected murder of the Shogun's daughter and the following investigation was driven for me by the whole Sano-san family involvement.  This was a great device which kept the story moving quickly.  I fell in love with each of the characters through their separate parts in the mystery.

Finally, the mystical and magical elements of Japan's culture as displayed within the story were fascinating as a sub-story running in tandem with the main one.

You'll surely enjoy this novel of feudal Japan.  Its many features make it rise above the ordinary mystery novel.  And Laura Joh Rowland packs a hard punch!  The surprise features will get you!  The ending leaves things open for more adventures with these same characters.

4 stars                   Deborah/TheBookishDame

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