At the end of the 17th century, with Japan on the verge of a civil war, Sano Ichiro, the shogun's most honorable investigator, gets a letter from the grave. Before he died Senior Elder Makino, fearing he might be assassinated, wrote Sano a letter asking him to look into his death.

Although relations are strained between Sano and his right-hand man, Hirata, and Sano's wife, Reiko, hasn't completely recovered from being kidnapped in the last book, they again aid in the investigation.

Rowland has a knack for zeroing in on minute historical details without losing sight of her plot and characters. And it's quite a story. The dangerous sexual and life-threatening political intrigue makes anything happening today seem tame. (May, 336 pp., $24.95)
Reviewed by: 
Diane Snyder