Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Iris Fan

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Publication Date: December 9, 2014
Minotaur Books
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Series: Sano Ichiro Mystery Series (Book 18)
Genre: Historical Mystery

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02_The Iris Fan Cover
Japan, 1709. The shogun is old and ailing. Amid the ever-treacherous intrigue in the court, Sano Ichiro has been demoted from chamberlain to a lowly patrol guard. His relationship with his wife Reiko is in tatters, and a bizarre new alliance between his two enemies Yanagisawa and Lord Ienobu has left him puzzled and wary. Sano’s onetime friend Hirata is a reluctant conspirator in a plot against the ruling regime. Yet, Sano's dedication to the Way of the Warrior—the samurai code of honor—is undiminished.

Then a harrowing, almost inconceivable crime takes place. In his own palace, the shogun is stabbed with a fan made of painted silk with sharp-pointed iron ribs. Sano is restored to the rank of chief investigator to find the culprit. This is the most significant, and most dangerous, investigation of his career. If the shogun's heir is displeased, he will have Sano and his family put to death without waiting for the shogun's permission, then worry about the consequences later. And Sano has enemies of his own, as well as unexpected allies. As the previously unimaginable death of the shogun seems ever more possible, Sano finds himself at the center of warring forces that threaten not only his own family but Japan itself.

Riveting and richly imagined, with a magnificent sense of time and place, The Iris Fan is the triumphant conclusion to Laura Joh Rowland's brilliant series of thrillers set in feudal Japan.


Laura Joh Rowland has decided to end her Sano Ichiro series dealing with a samurai detective during the Tokugawa Shogunate.  I have been following Sano’s adventures for quite a while now.  According to Goodreads, Rowland is my most read mystery author.  So I’ve grown attached to Sano, and his wife Reiko who often assists with Sano’s investigations.  When I agreed to participate in the blog tour for this book, my hope was that Rowland would end the series well.  I received a free copy of The Iris Fan from the publisher via Net Galley and this is my honest review.

The character dynamics and plot motifs in this series tended to repeat themselves.  This is why I’ve complained that a number of these books were formulaic.  I was most impressed with this series when the characters dealt with new situations or a new environment (The Snow Empress).

 I was pleasantly surprised by how Rowland played with the formula in this book.  I saw the same characters grappling over the same issues, but the plot brought about changes in their attitudes toward one another.  The dynamic was much less predictable.

When the novel starts, Reiko has been in mourning for the child she lost in a miscarriage for four years.  She has turned in on herself and hasn’t been active in investigations.  Since I loved Reiko’s independence and courage, her passivity bothered me.   I thought that involvement in a case would be the best thing for her, and I turned out to be right.   Sano, who was concerned about Reiko’s safety, may not have agreed at the time.  Yet I think in the end, he was happy to see the unconventional wife and mother he knew and loved again. 

The character arcs of those who were most prominent in this series seemed complete by the end of The Iris Fan.  So I felt satisfied by the resolution.  There could conceivably be more stories told about Sano’s son, Masahiro or about his daughter, Akiko.  A Masahiro or Akiko novel could be marketed as a YA mystery.  Rowland could find a whole new audience.  Yet if Rowland decides to move her career in a completely different direction, I probably won’t feel too disappointed.

Read the Sano Ichiro Mystery Series:

The Way of the Traitor
The Concubine's Tattoo
The Samurai's Wife
Black Lotus
The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria
The Dragon King's Palace
The Perfumed Sleeve
The Assassin's Touch
The Red Chrysanthemum
The Snow Empress
The Fire Kimono
The Cloud Pavilion
The Ronin's Mistress
The Incense Game
The Shogun's Daughter
The Iris Fan

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About the Author

03_Laura Joh RowlandGranddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan. She is the author of sixteen previous Sano Ichiro thrillers set in feudal Japan. The Fire Kimono was named one of the Wall Street Journal's "Five Best Historical Mystery Novels"; and The Snow Empress and The Cloud Pavilion were among Publishers Weekly's Best Mysteries of the Year. She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector and quality engineer.

For more information please visit Laura’s website. You can also follow her on Facebook.

The Iris Fan Blog Tour & Book Blast Schedule

Tuesday, December 9
Book Blast, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Wednesday, December 10
Book Blast at Literary Chanteuse

Thursday, December 11

Friday, December 12
Book Blast at Queen of All She Reads

Monday, December 15
Book Blast at Layered Pages

Tuesday, December 16
Review at Book Dilletante
Interview at Dianne Ascroft's Blog

Wednesday, December 17
Book Blast at CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, December 19
Review at Unshelfish

Monday, December 22
Review at Broken Teepee

Tuesday, December 23
Review at Book Nerd

Monday, January 5
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Wednesday, January 7
Review at Book Babe

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