Wow.... What a marvelous book! Talk about culture shock! Talk about world-building! Talk about complex, multi-faceted plotting!
I'm not even sure I can describe this book! It's set in Japan during the Edo period, so everything is very rigid. Filial duty, honor, and service to one's master are all top priorities. The whole society is based on these things, so when personal ambitions, desires, and truth to oneself crop up, there are some major complications that cause shuddering ramifications to all kinds of people from all kinds of walks of life. This society is very fragile, and there is no room for disobedience, even when disobeying is the "right" thing to do. In this story, it is never the right thing to do. So what happens when our protagonist, Sano Ichiro does it? Well, a heck of a lot more than one might expect!
This book is a mystery. It starts out with what seems to be a straightforward murder. I thought Ihad the killer pegged early, and felt certain that I had the motive. This was just another easy mystery wrapped up in a pretty package. PUH!!! This story twists and turns, nothing is as simple as it seems, and bad things happen to characters that in other books would be immune from such things. Plots thicken, consequences become more and more severe, situations become very, very hopeless. The reader is pulled along in this story. I couldn't put this down, and I didn't want it to end. I loved this book, and I hope the next Sano Ichiro book is just as good.