The Incense Game

The Incense Game

Book - 2012
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Winner of RT Magazine's Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Historical Mystery

In the wake of a terrifying earthquake, Sano Ichiro races to solve a crime that could bring down the shogun's regime

When a massive earthquake devastates Japan in 1703, even the shogun's carefully regulated court is left teetering on the brink of chaos. This is no time for a murder investigation--except when a nobleman's daughters are found dead from incense poisoning and their father threatens to topple the regime unless Sano Ichiro tracks down the killer.

As Sano and his wife strive to solve the case in a world that is crumbling around them, Laura Joh Rowland--author of one of the "five best historical mystery novels" (The Wall Street Journal)-- brings us her most powerful and evocative thriller set in Feudal Japan yet, The Incense Game .

Publisher: New York : Minotaur Books, 2012
ISBN: 9780312658533
Characteristics: vii, 290 p. : map


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Mar 19, 2013

About 5 chapters in, I was fidgeting in my chair and sweat was beading on my upper lip. I thought, oh dear, this is a book about Feudal Japan. I don't really enjoy books on Feudal Japan. Then I looked at the cover again and saw the tagline below the title "A novel of Feudal Japan." Ooops. I had been so drawn in by the lovely woman on the cover and the title "The Incense Game" that I failed to really pay attention. I wanted, after all, to know what the heck the incense game was. As it turns out, we hear very very little about the game itself. Still not sure, even after finishing this book that I have any idea what that is...hmmm. I slogged through this book, slow as a sloth. I really struggled with the characters. We had Yanagisawa and Yoshisato and Yoritomo and Yokichicka...that just in ONE family. Phew. I suspect that in Japanese these are all very distinct like John, Joe and James...but boyo, they sounded all about the same to me. It was tough. I thought seriously about quitting and then somewhere discovered that I had actually stumbled into a rather good story of intrigue. It was 1703 after a terrible earthquake and tsunami devastated Edo, which we now know as Tokyo. Think big bad Godzilla destroys all cites, and streets kind of destruction. Inside the root of this story we experience a childish and ridiculously selfish despot the Shogun, and the resulting courage or deviousness of those in his service. Three women are mysteriously killed by the derned incense game, and it is made to look like it occurred as part of the earthquake. Threats everywhere. Espionage. Covert investigations. Threats of mutiny. Treason. Starving and suffering people everywhere. The dead and sewage and fallen buildings everywhere. We dont know who is lying, who is cheating, who to trust, sympathize with or despise. Lots of depth of relationships, and children, secret magical rituals in the woods, ancient spirits, tattoos, card-sharking, looting, tent jails, horses, coolio mutant ninja warrior outfits, padded cotton coats that make everyone look fat fat fat...And the next thing i knew i could not put it down and could not wait to see how it ended. I was pleased with the cleverness of the murder mystery completion, but groaned when I came to the last 2 paragraphs and realized there would be a sequel. oh no...

ChristchurchLib Dec 11, 2012

Thrillers and Suspense December 2012 Newsletter

loblollyrosa Oct 01, 2012

An interesting blend of Japanese culture, philosophy and feudal court intrigue, along with a crime to be solved, during the Tokugawa shogunate era. Something different in the historical crime genre.

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Feb 21, 2014

G3N1SYZ thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


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