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Friday, April 19, 2013
FIVE STARS. "The Cloud Pavilion"by Laura Joh Rowland is a historical mystery novel that is set in seventeenth century feudal Japan in the Genroku period. Chamberlain Sano Ichiro is one of the two lead investigators working at the behest of the Shogun to solve all manner of crimes within and against his empire. Sano, together with the main antagonist, Yanagisawa and their samurai brethren work together to solve the mystery of the abduction and rape of a nursing mother, elderly nun and a young girl. Sano's estranged uncle, Major Kumazawa, reluctantly asks Sano for help in finding his missing cousin, Chiyo who is one of the rape victims. The main story is artfully woven within several subplots that keep the reader engaged. Rowland enriches the story with information about the Japanese culture, politics and structure of the empire, as well as elements of the mystical. Several strong women characters, including Sano's wife, Reiko who helps with the investigation, provide grace and balance to the story. The book is a good, steady read. Although there are some surprises, the main strength of the book is the tapestry of characters, images and plots. This was a thoroughly entertaining read for me. I kept going back to it as though I was spending time, comfortably with a good friend.