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CompleteMartialArts.com - The Concubine's Tattoo (Sano Ichiro Novels)

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Manufacturer: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 3.5/5Average rating of 3.5/5Average rating of 3.5/5Average rating of 3.5/5Average rating of 3.5/5

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Binding: Mass Market Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 813
EAN: 9780312969226
ISBN: 0312969228
Label: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Manufacturer: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 376
Publication Date: 2000-04-15
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Studio: St. Martin's Paperbacks

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Editorial Reviews:

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.

Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Laura, Please Tone Down the Sex
Comment: I found this series by accident a few months ago and I am thoroughly enjoying the books. The well-researched picture of ancient Japan is fascinating, and the mysteries are quite good. Things tend to get a bit melodramatic at times, but if I want a deep literary work I'll read that instead. These books are for enjoyment. My only complaint thus far is the amount of sex, porn really, that Laura includes. Way too much, bordering at times on disgusting. I'm not making a distinction between gay or straight here; we are over the top on both. A little goes a long way, and what is left to the imagination can be so much more exotic.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Rowland bases solid mystery in period-defining novel
Comment: Laura Joh Rowland may not write mysteries that have Agatha Christie posthumously worried about her place in the literary pantheon, but her Sano Ichiro mysteries are among the most realistic, well-grounded historical mysteries extant.

"The Concubine's Tattoo" is the fourth mystery in this series, and it's an excellent entry. The Shogun's favorite concubine has been murdered under circumstances that lead our hero to believe that she had other romantic interests besides the Shogun. Not only must Sokosan Sano solve a mystery that brings him into the inner sanctum of the pathetic, sexually depraved Shogun, it places him fully at odds with his sworn enemy, Chamberlain Yanisagawa. And he's playing for keeps.

Adding to the luster of this mystery is Sano's marriage to the beautiful, if ambitious (a sin for a Japanese lady of the time) Reiko. Not only does Sano's new wife have ambition, she thinks she can aid Sano in his investigation! Unheard of! Rowland handles this (somewhat predictable) marriage conflict with wonderful ease, ridding it of virtually all cliches. Reiko is also a worthy character in her own right, and she will surely add to the series as it progresses.

This is a lusty, violent novel. Rowland pulls few punches when it comes to the seedier side of sex in Tokugawa-age Japan, and this book is not for the prudish. But for those non-Puritans out there, it's a heck of a read and a solid mystery to boot - this is not one of those mysteries that you can decipher in the first 50 pages.

Check it out, but start with "Shinju," the first Sano Ichiro novel.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Not my Favorite...by a long shot
Comment: While the Concubine's Tattoo, is well written and is as much of a time machine for the reader as the earlier books in this series, the detail of sexual perversions and obsession, is not my cup of tea, and for most of the book, while not bad enough for me to quit reading mid story, I found myself speed reading to get through to the end, not savoring the experience of the story at all.

My advice is to skip this volume and go straight to The Samurai's Wife which is a much better story.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: The Concubine's Tattoo- absolutely amazing
Comment: -"Harume poured herself another cup of sake, a private toast to eternal love....A strange tingling began in Harume's lips and tongue; her throat felt strangely thick and numb....sudden nausea gripped over her while struggling as she managed to open the door. A hoarse cry burst from her numb lips. "Help!" Laura Joh Rowland creates another cunning novel to her series of Sano Ichiro, the Shogun's most Honorable investigator, to figure out who killed the young and beautiful concubine Harume in the book "The Concubine's Tattoo." Setting based on Japan in the late 1690's, Sano Ichiro is an investigator who is trying to solve who killed the concubine by poisoning her tattoo ink. As he gets more involved with the case, he finds out that the concubine has many enemies that all can be the murderer. Was it Lady Keisho, the mother of the emperor, Harume's stalker Kushida, or even a secret lover that no one knows about? As Sano uncovers this case wide open, could his life be in danger for uncovering something that wants to remain in the darkness or even his newly wed wife? I liked this book for its number of suspects, the personalities of the characters, and the building of the climax.

-One the contributing factors of greatness of this book was its number of suspects in the book. You never know who or what to suspect when everyone could be a suspect. Lady Keisho is a perfect example because she never liked young Harume because Lady Keisho thought Harume was trying to take her place in royalty. Lady Keisho was becoming very old and when she saw the young concubine come into the house she became very defensive and always showed animosity towards Harume. Then, there is Lord Miyagi who knew Harume's mother and has always taken a special liking to Harume. Finally, there is Kushida who was Harume's silent stalker that always wanted to be with Harume. He showed his feeling to Harume but she always denied him. It got to the point where Kushida lost his job and his respect for stalking her. It seemed everyone had a motive for killing her for his or her own personal satisfaction but it ended up being someone that you would least expect.

-Another reason why this was a good read because of the personalities of the characters in the book rose it to another level. Sano, the main character, went through a lot to uncover the real feelings and emotions of these diverse characters. Sano also tried to keep his wife out of the case, fearing that she would killed in the process. In addition, Lady Ichiteru was very sly and always seemed like she knew more than what she was telling the detective, but Sano could never seemed to know what it was until the end. Next, Lady Miyagi, Lord Miyagi's wife, was very protective of Lord Miyagi and would kill anyone if they tried to harm him Lady Miyagi's life was saved by Lord Miyagi so she always felt that she had an obligation to him, when fear of Lord Miyagi's secrets being uncovered, she took desperate measures to keep him safe. Lastly, there was Hirata, Sano's assistant, who tried everything to earn Sano's trust and loyalty, so he hoped that that case would do just that. However, when one of the suspects attracted him, he feels that his job is in jeopardy.

-Finally, what topped off this book was the craftiness of building of the climax. As the author started the book, she never got off subject and always bought in new elements to the story. It constantly felt like when you thought you had where she was going with the story; she always put in an extra twist, which put you on your toes. For example, when Sano was about to arrest Lady Keisho for the murder of Lady Harume, a unsuspecting letter from Sano's wife, Reiko, cleared Lady Keisho name and said someone had plotted to put the murder on Lady Keisho but she did not know who. Now Sano had to figure out who had plotted to blame Lady Keisho for the murder and who killed Lady Harume.

-"The Concubine's Tattoo," was a very good book that depicts life of a detective in the 17th Century. Not only was it expertly written but it left you waiting for a new novel involving the Shogun's most honorable investigator, Sano. This book qualities was its characters, the sequence of building the climax, and how you never knew what to expect next. I would recommend this book to people who love a good mystery and who loves to put themselves in the main character's place to completely get the feel of the book.


Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: Great Environment but Not Fully Realized Characters
Comment: I ran the Mensa Feudal Japan group for over 10 years, and have loved the Japanese culture since childhood. I was thrilled to pick up The Concubine's Tattoo - the fourth in a series about 1600s-era detective Sano Ichiro and his brand new wife, 20 year old Reiko. I wasn't expecting real historical accuracy - just a fun afternoon read with mystery and romance.

On the historical side, Rowland gets many things right and several things wrong. That's to be expected from most books, and I won't let that bother me too much. They're a bit heavy on the tea ceremony for this period. The story is set in 1690 Japan - but they're reading Dream of the Red Chamber which is a Chinese masterpiece written in the 1700s. In any case, most people don't read casual one-afternoon mysteries in order to learn deep historical lessons, so that is fine.

On the other hand, when I read historically based novels -whether it's in England of the 1200s or Italy in the 1400s, I expect the characters and culture to be authentic. That's generally why I'm reading those stories, to lose myself in "another time". It was really hard, therefore, to get a handle on the characters that populate this particular world. Ichiro, the lead character, is 31 and a detective in high Japanese society. Suddenly through the course of this story he "becomes aware" - in a week or so - of all the plights of Japanese women, on how evilly they're held down by society. None of his previous 31 years had made him think of this? He has the same startling revelations about 'eta' - the outcast of Japanese culture.

Many of the quotes and situations in the book are deliberately set up for modern audiences to gasp in outrage, thinking "how could they treat a woman like that!" I'm trying to think of a modern day situation that people wouldn't immediately try to shoot holes in. OK, what if we assumed that 100 years in the future, that "kids" could not vote or marry until age 25 and any sexual or drinking activity by them was considered evil child abuse. Now let's say that a book written then was set in modern times (i.e. 2006). This book had parents who were aghast that their 22 year old son was having wine with dinner and had a girlfriend who he slept with. It just wouldn't make sense. It would, in fact, be quite odd for the time. There are LOTS of things we consider normal now, that simply weren't considered normal at other times. To force a couple in Japan to have "modern day sensibilities" to suit a modern audience is betraying the whole reason you set a book in another time period.

I'm not saying I dislike female characters. Far from it!! I *love* female characters, especially female strong characters. There were tons of strong female characters in Japanese history! Certainly women did many things - they weren't just all prostitutes and feeble housewives, as the book sometimes says. What makes it worse is that the female character in the book is a ninny virgin 20 year old who possesses little common sense. She's supposedly well educated and trained in patience and law - but her technique is just to harass the person in front of her until she gets her way. If I was her guardian, I wouldn't have let her out to help with a dangerous mission, whether she was female OR male. The way that she interacts with her new husband - going from demanding to petulant to "you must be my constant assistant" in such a short period of time is really quite unbelievable.

We get the same problem of unbelievability from other characters. The Shogun and his mom are cardboard cutouts of 'brainless rulers who you have to humor'. Other characters exist to serve a purpose, most of them presenting a specific stereotype. In a parallel problem, there is a huge fascination on the part of the author with physical beauty. People with physical beauty are praised and loved. People without physical beauty are evil and beat on. It's thought of as "tragic" when a woman, once beautiful with make-up and hair care, has to "go natural" and be herself. Several characters are described as "no longer attractive" because they're no longer under age 30.

I'm not squeamish about sex, and I understand that some soldiers in Japanese history were homosexuals. Heck, some soldiers in Roman history were homosexuals, some in Greek history were .... you can find prostitutes and affairs and sexual toys in any culture in the world, in any time frame. However, this book goes a BIT overboard. I think the author was trying to toss in every strange Japanese sex practice she could think of in order to liven up the story. Sure, they story involves the Shogun's official prostitutes - concubines. Yes, it involves a Shogun who likes boys. But does EVERY single character we run into have to have a bizarre sexual fetish? We're talking about a general cross section of Japanese society here; the novel wasn't about the "sex addicts group" and their weekly tell-all sessions. It got a bit much.

I don't mean to pick on the series too much here. I own the books, obviously I enjoyed them enough to read and re-read them. There is a lot of great detail in here, a lot of clear imagery that is very moving. I enjoy the poetry and the environment that has been created. I just wish the characters themselves had been more robust and three dimensional. Again, I don't mind occasional historical inaccuracies; it just happens. However, when the entire basis for characters is completely out of "time appropriateness" and when a large number of characters seem to be two dimensional, that does bother me in a book. It turns the book from one I can really savor into a quick page-turner to zip through on a rainy afternoon.

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