Samurai Sano Ichiro, our guide through the intricacies of life and death in 17th-century Japan in Laura Joh Rowland's evocative and accessible mysteries (Bundori and Shinju are available in paperback) is called the Shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People. All of these skills--plus a strong sense of survival--are needed in this story about what happens when Dutch traders arrive in Nagasaki in 1690. The foreigners are isolated in a small section of the city, and most ordinary citizens are forbidden to make contact with them--on penalty of beheading. But when the Dutch trade director is found murdered, Sano risks his neck to find the killer and satisfy his curiosity about the world outside his rigorously regimented homeland.
Spotlight customer reviews:
Customer Rating: Summary: More Character Development Comment: As the third book featuring Sano Ichiro, I was anxious to read it once I picked it up. The politics in Bundori whetted my appetite, and I was ready for more.
The story takes place a year-and-a-half after Bundori. Sano has not yet married, still mourning the loss of his love. He has also found that there is little he can do to change the corrupt administration of the government and is despondent about the corruption. Strangely enough, Hirata, Sano's chief retainer, is despondent over his service to Sano as he does not seem to want to be protected and takes unnecessary risks. If Way of the Traitor does anything, it solidifies the relationship between Sano and Hirata, setting up their companionship for the later books.
Sano is sent to Nagasaki where he has to unravel the mystery behind the murder of the head of the Dutch East India Company. As the story progresses, the stakes increase, and Sano takes more risks, putting his life and reputation at stake. Through the course of the story, he uncovers corruption in the administration of Nagasaki, develops camaraderie with the Dutch doctor and is convicted of treason himself.
In the end, Sano lives, and he returns to Edo (the series would be very different if he did not). However, it is the lessons he learns that makes the story important in the development of the character. For that is the purpose of the book in the overall series, developing Sano to deal with the challenges in the later books.
Now my complaint is since the story takes place in Nagasaki, I have the feeling that I will not see most of these characters ever again. As such, the politics were less pressing. I like the world Rowland is developing, and Nagasaki is on the edge of this world. Now, I hope I am wrong, but I will not know until I push farther into series.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has read the previous ones. I am less likely to recommend this book on its own since it builds so much upon the events of Bundori. Customer Rating: Summary: Laura Joh Rowlands is becoming one of my favorite authors! Comment: We continue with the saga of the Shogun's detective, a medieval samurai, as he copes with political intriques, crime, and the ramifications of his own desire to always find out the truth no matter the cost. The book is well written, the characters well developed, and the story keeps you wanting to read on. The villans are enough to confuse the issue with who the real murderer is and so, the hallmark of a good author, the revelation is a surprise. My Japanese exchange student says the story is historically very accurate to boot. What more can you ask?? Customer Rating: Summary: Excellent Story Comment: I first read The Way of the Traitor several years ago and found it quite interesting. Now, as I write this review, I am sitting in a computer cafe in Nagasaki.
Rowland's plot is quite good. Sano has found himself essentially exiled from Edo by his unintended rival the Shogun's Chamberlin. He is given the task of "inspecting" Nagasaki which is just about as far from Edo as you can go and still be in Japan. Given the state of transportation systems in Japan during the Shogunate, it is possible the chamberlain was hoping Sano wouldn't survive the journey.
Nagasaki is Japan's window to the world and it is tightly guraded and only open a crack. The only authorized westerners in Japan are the Dutch and the are kept on a small man-made island in the harbor. Origianlly the concession was given to the Portugese who along with trade brough Christianity and this ultimately lead to the banning of Christian teachings, the expulsion of the Portugese and the persecution of Japanese Christians. The Dutch have filled the void left by the departed Portugese becasue they aren't interested in spreading the gospel, justĀ@making profits on their investments. They can't leave the island unescorted and no Japanese can enter except on official business. To even go on the island one is required to take and oath against Christianity and desecrate Christian icons. The penalty for not adhering to the oath is severe - death.
Sano's arival coincides with the disappearance of one of the Dutch trading mission from the island. It is this investigation which Sano finds himself involved with that almost cost Sano his life in several different ways.
The plot is well set out. The are a large number of potential suspects ranging fromĀ@the surviving Dutch traders to a Chinese religious leader to corrupt local officals. It is not an easy trail for Sano to follow and Rowland makes the sidetracks and false leads quite intriguing. The conclusion to the investigation is excellently done.
I have read this book several times and have found it just as entertaining now as when I first got it. Now reading it in Nagasaki it is almost like being in a time warp. Looking at the Nagasaki of today, it is easy to not see the houses clustering on the hills around the city and to see it as it was in the late 17th Century. It is a hot, humid and foggy night as I sit here writing - just the right conditions for a stranger to the city to look for a murderer who might be any one of a number of people.
Rowland is an exceptional story teller. She
weaves an exceptional tale of the very narrow meeting point between Japan and the rest of the world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes history interlaced with their fiction.
Customer Rating: Summary: Office politics and the way of the Samuri Comment: Ever been set up by a middle manager that wants to make you look bad to make himself look better? Well imagine that the consequence is beheading instead of a write up. That's what the hero face in this exploration of predjudice, paranoia and murder. Fun story, good detective work and good action spice up this book of value exploration. Customer Rating: Summary: East Meets West...Unwillingly Comment: This novel picks up where Rowland's last Sano Ichiro novel left off: once again, Sano is the victor in the battle against crime, but loser of the war that rages within the Shogun's household. And, once again, his enemy is the Shogun's favorite, Yanagisawa. Sano finds himself essentially exiled to Nagasaki, the only port in which Japan allows foreigners -- closely watched, of course. A Dutch trader is murdered, and Sano offers to unearth the murderer, a seemingly impossible, and politically suicidal, task. Will Sano persevere? Since this is a series of novels, it's pretty obvious he will solve the case. However, I don't think I can take much more of Sano and his associates constantly beaten, wounded, and almost assassinated! The most interesting part of the book, in my opinion, is the picture of foreigners Rowland paints in the book: they are, to Sano and other Japanese, dirty, smelly, and almost completely uncivilized. The fact that Sano needs one of the Dutch delegation's help challenges his detective and physical senses to the extreme. Rowland is historically accurate in her depiction of the xenophobia present in Japan, and the fears that foreigners will somehow pollute the purity of Japanese culture, something that James Clavell did so well in 'Shogun'.