Saturday, February 27, 2010

Five best historical mystery novels

David B. Rivkin, Jr., a Washington-based lawyer who has served in the Justice Department, named a five best list of historical mysteries for the Wall Street Journal.

One title on the list:
The Fire Kimono
by Laura Joh Rowland
St. Martin's/Minotaur, 2008

In this entry from Laura Joh Rowland's beguiling series featuring the samurai detective Sano IchirĊ at the turn of the 18th century in Japan, the shogun gives Sano three days to solve a 40-year-old mystery. Why? Because the mystery concerns a fire that nearly destroyed the shogun's city, Ido, and Sano's own mother has emerged as a suspect. But Sano has other pressing concerns as well: A rival is threatening his position at court, and the murder of a close relative of the shogun has outraged the tightly controlled social system. Rowland's tale is graced with evocative period detail, as when Sano is horrified to see his mother's maid cooking a duck—a culinary taboo at the time—only to be mollified when the woman explains that the dish is permissible because it is meant to restore his mother's fading strength. But "The Fire Kimono" lingers in the memory as a haunting story of an honest man trying to navigate in an honor-obsessed culture where elaborate ritual can conceal sinister intrigue.
Read about another book on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue