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The Samurai's Wife: A Novel (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: 813.54
EAN: 9780312974480
ISBN: 0312974485
Label: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Manufacturer: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 352
Publication Date: 2001-04-15
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Studio: St. Martin's Paperbacks

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Editorial Reviews:

Far from the Shogun's court at Edo, Most Honorable Investigator Sano Ichiro begins the most challenging case of his career. Upon the insistence of his strong-willed and beautiful wife Reiko, Sano arrives with her at the emperor's palace to unmask the murderer--who possesses the secret of kiai, "the spirit city," a powerful scream that can kill instantly. A high Kyoto official is the victim. Treading carefully through a web of spies, political intrigue, forbidden passions, and intricate plots, Sano and Reiko must struggle to stay ahead of the palace storm--and outwit a cunning killer. But as they soon discover, solving the case means more than their survival. For if they fail, Japan could be consumed in the bloodiest war it has ever seen...

A legendary land comes alive in this compelling murder mystery set in seventeenth-century Japan. Filled with finely drawn characters and suspenseful plot twists, The Samurai's Wife is a novel as complex, vivid, and artful as the glorious, lost world it portrays.



Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Lovely Environment, Questionable Situations
Comment: This is the fifth book in the Sano Ichiro series, set in Japan of the 1600s. Sano is a detective working for the Shogun. In book 4 he had just taken a wife who wanted to help him with his detective work - and at the end of the story he had reluctantly agreed. At the time they had only been married a few days. Now, in The Samurai's Wife, we flash forward to a year later, where apparely they've been working together all year long as partners.

I have to admit I was disappointed to realize that all of that "getting to know each other" storyline had been skipped over so handily. Book 4 (The Concubine's Tattoo) involved Sano and wife Reiko barely knowing each other, fighting over her role in his life, and she had only barely gotten him to agree to let her occasionally help out by the end of the story. Now, suddenly, we start this book with them both on an important stake-out, watching to land the final blow. It seemed that all of that give-and-take, all of the delicate balances involved in forging the relationships, would have been fascinating to read about. Instead we skip it all and land right into "OK they're married for a year and she's pregnant, and they're a team." You might think therefore that the pregnancy would have involved a lot of cool details involving how the Japanese viewed pregnancy, just as the previous book involved a lot of wedding details, but as a plot device it is mentioned maybe 3 times and then completely ignored. So much for life-shattering changes!

I've studied feudal Japan for many years and I really love all books set in this time period. I don't need them to be accurate. I understand how hard it is to write with every single detail being perfect. However, I at least want to feel, somewhat, that I am in a different time, with different attitudes and situations. I also want the story to make contextual sense - that is, I want the story not to contradict itself illogically.

So I was on one hand impressed and had fun with the setting of the Emperor's City - Kyoto - which is where the Imperial Family lives. They are stuck in the past, doomed (they might feel) to an insignificant life as figureheads. On the other hand, there were numerous comments about this situation that struck me as quite out of tune. Apparently everyone in the Imperial Court is "barred from engaging in trade" - which is like saying that a shogun's wife is barred from being a prostitute! Japanese at the time looked down on merchants as a very low class, and in fact nobles didn't carry money so they would not sully themselves with the cash. The book refers to this not-having-cash several times in fact. It's as if the author knew some tidbits - but didn't realize the actual meaning.

Another situation - the book makes very clear that a samurai's wife shouldn't be going around on her own investigating murders. This is a big source of contention between Sano and wife Reiko. In fact when Sano arrives at Tokyo, he doesn't introduce Reiko as she is "just a family member". However, only a few scenes later, Sano's police officer equal is discussing where their investigation is going. The officer asks Sano what his plans are for the next day. Sano replies that he is going to do xxxx and that "my wife will do yyyy". Why in the world would he bother to tell a policeman about his wife's personal plans? It made no sense at all.

Just one more, because this one really bugged me. At one point they are talking about what happens to members of the Emperor's family if they lose power (because the Emperor abdicates or so on). The book says that for a woman to enter a nunnery "represented utter humiliation". WHAT??? Some women GLADLY entered nunneries because they were sick of the office politics and wanted a life of religious quiet and contemplation!! To equate a nunnery to humiliation just had me shaking my head. Sure, some women who wanted to be sexy and having wild parties and loved being the center of attention would, if told suddenly "Shave your head, you are going to a nunnery for the rest of your life", be quite upset. But this wasn't some sort of a blanket reaction that every single female had.

I still have an issue with Reiko in general. I found her really annoying and incongruous in book 4. I found her perhaps a little more toned down and reasonable here, but still wildly out of context for the book's setting. Let me reiterate that I am ALL for strong female characters. For example I really liked the character of Lady Jokyoden. Reiko is just over the top, though. She has little common sense and her demands for attention are very childish. In the real world, people earn respect - but she just wants it given to her immediately.

Book 4 was quite full of sex, sex and more sex. This book toned that down quite a bit, although people who flinch at homosexual situations are going to have their hands full with arch-enemy Chamberlain Yanigasawa's exploits. What The Samurai's Wife has instead is outrageously implausible fantasy elements. Up until now the series has seemed "reality based" - that you felt transported to the real Japan of the 1600s with the people and places that existed. Now, suddenly, we have people running around with KIAI power, in essence screaming and slaying other people. Seems to me that if the Japanese could do this, we'd have heard about it. Not only that, but characters talk to historical individuals that have been dead for centuries, and others have the power of mind control.

In the meantime, the plot is guessable pretty much right from the beginning, and the characters both skip incredibly obvious clues and also get clues dropped into their lap with little effort at all.

So, once I retooled my expectations to consider this a fantasy novel that had some Japanese elements in it, to enjoy for its pretty scenery rather than its robust characters or intricate plot, it was pretty enjoyable. Not all books can be complex machinations that you love reading 30 times. This was a fun afternoon read and gave me my fix of Things Japanese.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5
Summary: By no means unreadable, but ...
Comment: The basic plot outline has Sano sent to investigate a murder at the highest levels of society (the Emperor is a suspect) to clear his name of slander. His spunky wife accompanies him, and while initially he worries about her safety he eventually comes to accept her as a partner in his investigation.

There's an odd sort of quality to this novel; it really wants to please, and it offers up a series of interesting set-pieces, characters who sound like they should be fascinating, and a complex mystery to be solved.

Unfortunately, the solution to the mystery is obvious before we've even finished meeting all the suspects, all of the characters are cardboard cutouts, and most of the different lines of the plot just stop abruptly. Sano's rival the chamberlain is so much more interesting a character than Sano Ichiro that, slimy as he is, I kept having to stop myself from rooting for him.

Worst of all, there's enough magic used to qualify the book as a fantasy novel instead of a historical mystery. A little bit of that is okay as the expression of the general mysticism of the era, but the solution to the mystery hinges on it. That's just not playing fair.

While I kind of enjoyed The Samurai's Wife, it's definitely "beach reading" ... moreso even than the Legend of the Five Rings series.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5
Summary: Modern madness
Comment: Although a number of prior reviewers loved this novel, I found it impossible to enjoy, despite an overwhelming desire to like this book. As a martial artist, I couldn't get past the silly plot. Worse yet, the characters, especially the main characters, are far too modern (and Western). Likewise, the dialog was stilted, direct, and unlikely to be spoken by even modern Japanese. If you aren't looking for historical accuracy, you may be happy with the novel.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: The Best of the Sano Ichiro Series
Comment: I really enjoyed this book. It was the best of the Sano Ichiro books I have read so far (I can't wait to read "The Perfumed Sleeve"). It was really enrapturing, and this is just a little bit better than "The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria".
The characters in this one were really interesting, at times you almost want to root for the suspects, such as: Lady Jokyoden. Besides from the fact that it was good, it was informative.The culture is really well researched.
Some people may think it's a little over the top, with all the "events", but things like this probably happened in 1600's Japan. It's dramatic but believable and this plot was cool, because it incorporated the imperial family. Who didn't even govern the country, but were just considered living gods.
If you've read the other ones you have to read this, it's the best.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5Average rating of 2/5
Summary: It's getting to be too much!
Comment: This is the fifth or sixth Sano Ichiro book that I read. The only reason that I keep coming back is the futile hope that perhaps the next one will be different. But it is not. The characters in these books have a one-dimensional comic book quality that does not change or mature with age. The antagonism between Sano and the Chamberlain gets to be boring after so many absurd confrontations. The evolution of plot and detective work is always pathetically arbitrary. The only saving grace is what to the reader appears as an interesting view and description of 17th century Japan.


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