When the shogunís mother, Lady Keisho-in, decides to make an impromptu visit to Mount Fuji, she insists that Reiko, detective Sano Ichirōís beautiful wife, Midori and Lady Yanagisawa, wife of the shogunís powerful second-in-command, all accompany her even though the three ladies themselves have little to no enthusiasm for the trip. On the way, their procession is attacked by a band of warriors, and the four women are kidnapped.
When the shogun, who is a mere figurehead, goes into panic at this brazen act, a power struggle erupts in the court. The political wheelings and dealings begin, sides are chosen and the backstabbing begins. Setting their mutual enmity aside, Sano and Yanagisawa form an uneasy alliance as they race against time to uncover the truth. Meanwhile imprisoned on an island guarded by vicious samurais, Reiko struggles to avoid the amatory advances of the deranged kidnapper who calls himself the Dragon King, while trying to help a pregnant Midori, outmaneuver mad Lady Yanagisawa and evade Lady Keisho-inís predatory sexual overtures. Is a happy conclusion even possible?
With great skill and delicacy, author Laura Joh Rowland brings seventeenth-century Japan to vivid life with armed samurais, ample scenic beauty, and a great deal of political as well as sexual shenanigans. Rowland further enhances the character-driven story with a suspenseful plot, heartfelt emotionality and even some interesting action sequences. Time after time, the samurai tradition and its nuances are explored along with the lives, superstitions and cultural values of the masses. By making two mortal enemies like Sano and Yanagisawa work together, Rowland not only ensures plenty of drama but also succeeds in combining skillful detective work with military-style strategies. Reikoís courage and ingenuity in the face of palpable danger is laudable even as the plot keeps the readers intrigued with its plethora of possible villains. Overall, this eighth book is a very satisfying and welcome addition to an already highly-applauded series, and itís hoped that Rowlandís high standard of writing will continue in the future.