Summary and book reviews of The Concubine's Tattoo by Laura Joh Rowland

The Concubine's Tattoo

By Laura Joh Rowland

The Concubine's Tattoo
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  • Hardcover: Dec 1998,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2000,
    384 pages.

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Book Summary

Twenty months spent as the shogun's sosakan-sama--most honorable investigator of events, situations, and people - has left Sano Ichiro weary. He looks forward to the comforts that his arranged marriage promises: a private life with a sweet, submissive wife and a month's holiday to celebrate their union. However, the death of the shogun's favorite concubine interrupts the couple's wedding ceremony and shatters any hopes the samurai detective had about enjoying a little peace with his new wife.

After Sano traces the cause of Lady Harume's death to a self-inflicted tattoo, he must travel into the cloistered, forbidden world of the shogun's women to untangle the complicated web of Harume's lovers, rivals, and troubled past, and identify her killer.

To make matters worse, Reiko, his beautiful young bride, reveals herself to be not a traditional, obedient wife, but instead, a headstrong, intelligent, aspiring detective bent on helping Sano with his new case. Sano is horrified at her unladylike behavior, and the resulting sparks make their budding love as exciting as they mystery surrounding Lady Harume's death.

Amid the heightened tensions and political machinations of feudal Japan. Sano faces a daunting complex investigation.

Chapter One
Edo Genroku Period, Year 3, Month 9
(Tokyo, October 1690)

"It is my privilege to open this ceremony in which Sosakan Sano Ichiro and Lady Ueda Reiko shall be united in marriage before the gods." Pudgy, nearsighted Noguchi Motoori--Sano's former superior and the go-between who had arranged the match--solemnly addressed the assembly gathered in Edo Castle's private reception hall.

On this warm autumn morning, sliding doors stood open to a garden resplendent with scarlet maple leaves and brilliant blue sky. Two priests, clad in white robes and tall black caps, knelt at the front of the hall before the alcove, in which hung a scroll bearing the names of the kami--Shinto deities. Below this, a dais held the traditional offerings of round rice cakes and a ceramic jar of consecrated sake. Two maidens, wearing the hooded cloaks of Shinto shrine attendants, stood near the priests. On the tatami to the left of the alcove knelt the bride's father and closest ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

The book suffers, as Rowland's previous novels have, from a common hazard of historical mysteries: the pace is weighed down by the very details with which the author so painstakingly bedecks her narrative. Even so, Rowland's understanding of the society she depicts shines through, and she succeeds in presenting Sano as an intriguing combination of wiliness and decency, making this a good bet for fans of historicals as well as of mysteries past.

Kirkus Reviews

This impressive novel features a plot that's perfectly adapted to its historical background Sano's growing fear of humiliation and dishonor comes across more keenly than any other contemporary setting would allow.

Library Journal

A fascinating, well-researched, and action-filled costume adventure, perhaps even better than Rowland's The Way of the Traitor.

Booklist - Nancy Pearl

Despite a few instances of overwrought prose, Rowland offers fascinating glimpses into the culture of medieval Japan, especially into the thankless lives of women. A good choice for fans of historical mysteries.

Washington Post Book World

Rowland is a sturdy, persuasive storyteller, and well worth keeping an eye on.

Washington Post Book World

Rowland is a sturdy, persuasive storyteller, and well worth keeping an eye on.

Reader Reviews
Madonna Nugent

I really enjoyed this book. I lived for a few years in Japan, so it was interesting to know all the places and temples of which the author wrote. There's plenty of Japanese history and culture to keep you transfixed as you read about the murdered ...   Read More

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