The Snow Empress
Laura Joh Rowland
St. Martin’s, Nov 2007, $24.95
In 1699 in Edo, Masahiro, the son of chamberlain Sano Ichiro and his wife Reiko, vanishes without a trace. At about the same time that his parents are aware of his abduction, Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi summons Sano to the palace. There Sano’s enemy Lord Matsudaira accuses him of bombing his villa. Sano believes the bombing is a distraction ploy as his odious foe probably kidnapped his child.
Tokugawa sends Sano to the faraway island of Ezogashima, where he is to help Lord Matsumae battle barbarians. Meanwhile Matsudaira confesses that Sano’s son has been taken to Ezogashima also. Sano and Reiko accompanied by a small retinue rush to Ezogashima, but meet no cooperation from anyone and almost lose their heads as grieving Lord Matsumae trusts no one since his mistress was murdered; meanwhile his wife mourns the homicide of their daughter. Reiko investigates the murders allegedly committed by the SNOW EMPRESS and the whereabouts of her son while Sano struggles to get through to the apparently insane Matsumae.
Ichiro’s twelfth historical mystery is an exciting thriller that once again brings to life late seventeenth century Japan. The story line is fast-paced as Sano tries to stay clam in light of his son’s kidnapping and the insanity of the Lord he is supposed to help; he would like to harm Matsudaira for the abduction and remove Matsumae from office. However, his volatile wife does not care one iota about political correctness especially when Masahiro is involved. Although placing the lad on the same island that the Shogun sends the hero to makes it easier on the lead couple to work together, fans of the series will enjoy their latest escapades as the Chamberlain and his wife try to rescue their offspring and struggle with obeying their order to help the insane Lord.