Mystery and Murder in Ancient Japan

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Mystery and Murder in Ancient Japan

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1selkie_girl Primeira Mensagem
Ago 10, 2006, 11:31 pm

I am currently hooked on the series involving Sano Ichiro, most honorable investigator, which takes place in Ancient Japan before the influence of Western culture. Laura Joh Rowland's writing is excellant but tends to get a little graphic involving the murder scenes and suspects personal lives. She doesn't sugar coat anything when it comes to the people she writes about. Sano's wife, Reiko, who comes into the series during the book, The Concubine's Tattoo, is a real joy and a woman who can kick butt if she has to. She also is very intellegent and is able to help her husband with his cases. Worth the read, pick one up, or at least the Concubine's Tattoo which will get you hooked.

Dez 24, 2006, 4:39 pm

I have read the first book in the series, and have begun collecting the series, but its not my favorite mystery series set in Japan.

I.J. Parker does a series which I like better. The characters jump off the page, and the setting seems more detailed. It is called the Sugawara Akitada mysteries, set in 11th century Japan.

The books are:

The Dragon Scroll (#1)
Rashomon Gate (#2)
Black Arrow (#3)
The Hell Screen (#4)

I have the numbers after them because they are published in a different order, but the story order is listed above.

Fev 19, 2007, 8:55 pm

Your story order is good news for me. It suggests that the current publishers (penguin I think) might re-release The Hell Screen soon and so put them in order.

I have 1 - 3 from Penguin and have read 1. I have also collected and read the complete list of Laura Joh Rowland's series of Sano Ichiro (I am just waiting for the Australian release of The Assassin's Touch and Red Chrysanthemum.

I also have the Lady Aoi series by Margaret Woodward two books but I didn't really get into them. I am hoping to track down the Dale Furutani series - I have one of them but not the other two as yet.


Jun 30, 2007, 1:19 am

The next I.J. Parker book in Sugawara Akitada series is called Island of Exiles and is coming out in September of 07 in Trade.

I too was hoping that Hell Screen would be republished in trade, but I couldn't wait anymore. I got the HC used from Amazon, though it was actually new.

Jul 15, 2007, 6:29 pm

Thanks for the information FicusFan I will keep looking for a secondhand copy of The Hell Screen and keep my eye out for Island of Exiles

Meantime I have read the Sano Ichiro series up to The Assassin's Touch.


Jul 16, 2007, 5:20 pm

Yes, thank-you for the information. I excitedly bought The Dragon Scroll after reading Rashomon Gate and The Hell Screen, but became confused. Had I already read that book? Why did it appear to occur earlier in time than the prior books? Well, now I know that I hadn't actually read that book previously, but that the book was set earlier in time.

I didn't have any problem reading James Fenimore Coopers books in order, but that is because I already knew that they were published out of order. Guess this gives me an excuse to reread some books. Though that is not something I normally do.

Anyone else find Parker through short stories prior to the first book publication? :)

Jul 17, 2007, 11:13 pm

I just saw Parker's book Dragon Scroll in a little display in the store. The cover was intriguing, and I like historical mysteries so I picked it up. Once I read it, I tracked down the earlier ones, and have been tracking the new ones as they come out.

I didn't know she did short stories, until I read it in one of her books. Haven't read any.

I am now working on the San Ichiro series, for a RL mystery group. I am reading Shinju and enjoying it better than the previous San Ichiro book I read. Maybe the problem was that I was reading out of order. oops.

Jul 29, 2007, 5:57 pm

I am just now starting book 6 of the San Ichiro series, Black Lotus.

The series is very meaty with a good amount of historical detail and great characters. So I like it much better than when I started reading them, though Parker's series is still my favorite.

Editado: Out 13, 2007, 7:03 am

I have read all of Laura Joh Rowland's Sano Ichiro mysteries. They have been sometimes a bit uneven, but still hold my interest.

I have also read the Lady Aoi books, also not bad. And books by Dale Furutani.

I can't quite remember if I've read Parker's books, but I certainly will get ahold of the latest ones and catch up, regardless.

I THINK there was another book that may or may not be a series... but I can't recall it at the moment... I'll try to monitor this thread to see if someone else mentions it!

Fev 12, 2008, 8:12 am

I just read I. J. Parker's Island of Exiles, and I loved it!!! I'm hunting down the other books now...

Fev 27, 2008, 7:11 pm

I just read I. J. Parker's Rashomon Gate, and enjoyed it very much. It was, I think, the first Akitada novel she wrote, although the fictional chronology is different. Doesn't seem to matter since I'm reading them all out of order as I can find them!

This one gave a wide-ranging glimpse of Heian society in Kyo (present day Kyoto), from the powerful lords, ministers, university academicians, monks, police, merchants, servants, criminals and beggars. And the mystery was involved and complex. I'm very much enjoying this series.

Mar 7, 2008, 6:53 pm

It looks like (according to Amazon) that the next book is a reprinting of Hell Screen in trade paperback. It is listed as coming out June 24, 2008.

I am sad because I have it already, and may have to wait another year for a new one. But since it was Out of Print, its probably a good sign about the health of the series. If it wasn't doing well, they wouldn't bother.

Mar 11, 2008, 11:45 pm

Likewise the Crime Thru Time website lists The Hell Screen as slotted for release in June 2008 and lists the publisher as Penguin - so it should be in the same format as the others.

Woo - Hoo :)


Jul 16, 2008, 5:05 pm

I really enjoyed the first two samurai mysteries by Dale Furutani, Death at the Crossroads and Jade Palace Vendetta. The character, and books, bring to mind Kurosawa's Seven Samurai.

I also read Laura Joh Rowland's Red Chrysanthemum and enjoyed it, tho I agree the violence is quite graphic. We read it for one of the mystery discussion groups I take part in, and some people in the group did not like the mystical aspect that came in during the big sword fight scene near the end.

Jul 16, 2008, 6:10 pm

I very much enjoy the Laura Joh Rowland series, too and have the IJ Parker series on my pile waiting. Are the Dale Furutani titles readily available? I searched a little while ago and wasn't successful.

With respect to violence depicted in the Rowland series, I agree, but at the same time I can rationalize it also with the times that were quite incredibly violent.

Editado: Jul 17, 2008, 12:36 pm

The Dale Furutani series is out of print (oop), at least in the US.

One of the books showed up on my recommendations, when they re-did them. I tracked the book down and found it oop. I ended up getting all 3, used.

I have read them, and they are not bad. I consider them to be historical mystery lite. They aren't meaty and the mystery story is very thin. The overall series is about a Ronin searching the land for a lost child. Because of his wandering he is always changing locations and wandering into the middle of mysteries.

The good part is the writing is good, characters are done well, and there is a good bit of interesting details about Japan of the time worked into the books.

I read all 3 back to back and by the last book the main character seemed too perfect, and you knew he was going to triumph. I enjoyed them, but was not sad that the series ended.

The books are:

Death at the Crossroads
Jade Palace Vendetta
Kill The Shogun

I will have to check out the Lady Aoi series

Jul 17, 2008, 5:45 pm

I normally don't read a series back to back, even when I really like a book, as in the Furutani series. That way, when I've read other stuff and go back to the next book in a series, it's like becoming reaquainted with an old friend, who seems new again.

Jul 18, 2008, 2:14 pm

I couldn't for the life of me find any Japanese mysteries written by Margaret Woodward.

Tried Amazon US and UK. Went to Macbeth's library. Turns out it is Ann Woodward. There are 2 books that are oop.

They are:

The Exile Way and Of Death and Black Rivers. I put them on my list of oop books and will try to find them locally or end up ordering them the next time I do an oop order.

Editado: Jul 25, 2008, 1:32 am

I have just ordered a copy of Death at the Crossroads through ABE and then my back list of Samurai Mysteries will finally be complete. I bought and read Parker's The Hell Screen late last month and ripped through it. I was impressed how the whole series blends well togehter even though it was published in a different order to its chronology.

Sorry about the mixup between Magaret Woodward and Anne Woodward (how embarrassment)


Ago 21, 2008, 3:16 am

Death at the Crossroads arrived last week. I now have the complete Furutani set.

My only outstanding mystery now is the upcoming Rowland Snow Empress


Ago 21, 2008, 3:59 pm

There is a new Rowland which is coming out when the paperback of Snow Empress is released, it is called "the Fire Kimono". Macbeth, sorry but now you have two outstanding ones. Cheers.

Out 23, 2008, 12:29 am

I really disliked The Snow Empress... I think I'm going off of that series!

Dez 16, 2008, 12:20 am


I must say that I thought that the mystery component of The Snow Empress was very ordinary but I did really like the setting - Samurai Japan's 'Wild North'.

Now if only I could get some confirmation that the Japanese and the Ainu used dog sleds :)

I sill plan to read The Fire Kimono


Fev 10, 2009, 3:08 am

Macbeth-- Oh, I do agree with you, the setting was great! It's just that the motivations of the characters was odd and the plot wasn't enjoyable. I adored Rowland's first books in the series but after that I've had a sort of love-hate relationship. It turned strongly to disfavor with this last book. So much so that I didn't pick up her new mystery that's not set in Japan.

Abr 28, 2009, 7:40 pm

Earlier in this thread someone mentioned the short stories of Ann Woodward, about Lady Aoi during the Heian period. There were more than a dozen of them and they were published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine over about a 20 year period, and she continues to write one every year or so. They are very good, and it's too bad there were only the two novels. I obtained all of the stories by looking for the AHMMs they were published in on abebooks. If anyone is interested I have the list of titles and which issues of AHMM they were in.

Abr 28, 2009, 9:27 pm

Actually, it was the I.J. Parker short stories that were mentioned. They were also published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, starting about 10 years ago. They are worth tracking down too. The titles and issues can be found at the website

There are a couple of young adult mystery series set in Japan, one by Lensey Namioka and another by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler. There's also Lian Hearn's Tales of the Otori. These are all very enjoyable, and if you enjoy Woodward, Parker, Furutani and Rowland, you might like these too.

Jul 17, 2009, 4:30 am

Have just finished re-reading one of those Lensey Namioka books - The Valley of the Broken Cherry Trees 1980 - a very readable mystery/adventure book starring the two ronin, 'Konishi Zenta' and 'Ishihara Matsuzo'.

A Young Adult book? Well, it lacks both the complexity of much Adult Fiction and the *yawn* steamy sex scenes that seem to be mandatory these days.

Overall a good read.

‘Aurélien Arkadiusz’

Jun 3, 2010, 8:07 pm

I have all I.J. Parker's Akitada mysteries except the latest one, but have read only The Dragon Scroll. I was lucky -- it was the first one I bought, and I read it without knowing it was actually chronologically the first in the series. My TBR shelf also has 11 of the Sano Ichiro series, but I'm too buried in Medieval England to make the trip.

Jul 4, 2010, 8:16 pm

--> 24


I have persevered with Laura Joh Rowland and picked up The Fire Kimono and The Cloud Pavilion through The book depository (with the aid of my mother in law).

Fire Kimono was brilliant. A much better mystery story with proper clue trails and more believable motivations by the principle characters.

I am about a quarter of the way through Cloud Pavilion and it is pretty good, with just a touch too much of the mystical side of martial arts when Hirata is on centre stage, otherwise a good story.