Shinju by Laura Joh Rowland [2.5/5]

In an effort to actually review a book while I still remember some details about it, I’m skipping ahead to the most recent book I’ve finished and reviewing the first installment in Laura Joh Rowland‘s Sano Ichiro mystery series. Set in seventeenth-century Japan, Shinju is the tale of newly appointed yoriki Sano Ichiro’s quest to solve the mystery of a ritual double suicide (the shinju) that he believes is actually a double murder.

I have mixed feelings about this book because, while it is an excellent look at feudal Japan, it’s not an especially good mystery. Frankly, the biggest mystery for me is why Shinju got such glowing reviews. The plot is often clumsy, and the prose is merely passable, so if I hadn’t found the period details to be so interesting, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed this novel much at all. As it is, I doubt I’ll be reading the next book in the series.

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