Laura Joh Rowland Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

In Sano Ichir and his wife, Lady Reiko, Laura Joh Rowland has created a multidimensional detective couple who have propelled her series to a long and sustained life. Rowland attracts readers who savor both historical mysteries and good old-fashioned detective work. Her mysteries live off her meticulous historical research, which brings to life Japan’s seventeenth century Genroku era, and her keen understanding of humanity’s weaknesses and its penchant for crime and political intrigue, which are mediated by the desire of a few good persons to see justice prevail. One of Rowland’s key achievements is that she makes her characters, from a geographically and chronologically remote past, become so familiar and feel so real that critics enthused that Sano has more in common with Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade than with a costumed warrior of times past. }

Throughout her crime series, Rowland carefully develops her central cast of characters, beginning with Sano and Reiko. By having Sano move up the ranks, she is able to create mysteries with ever larger social and political ramifications. Similarly, the amazing development of Lady Reiko has fascinated Rowland’s appreciative and steadily growing readership.

The existence of the magical in Rowland’s world, with villains felling their opponents through arcane mystic martial arts skills, does not distract from the reality of her crime-solving characters, who are caught in the nets and restraints of a deeply stratified society where a false step may mean instant death. In each novel, the stakes are raised to the utmost for Sano and Reiko, yet they have been able to extricate themselves, often at a price, from all the traps laid for them by their nefarious adversaries.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Cannon, Peter. Review of The Dragon King’s Palace, by Laura Joh Rowland. Publishers Weekly 250, no. 5 (February 3, 2003): 57. Reviewer is impressed by author’s ability to combine rich period detail with universal human emotions and dark obsessions that make for an original mystery.

Drabelle, Dennis. “Bundori: Going Great Shoguns.” Review of Bundori, by Laura Joh Rowland. The Washington Post, March 4, 1996, p. D2. Discusses Sano’s difficulties as a detective embedded in an authoritarian society and beset by jealous enemies. Emphasizes Sano’s traditional beliefs, which he augments with real human cunning and insight, and lauds Rowland’s re-creation of her historical setting.

Klett, Rex. Review of Black Lotus, by Laura Joh Rowland. Library Journal 126, no. 4 (March 1, 2001): 133. Focuses on the novel’s intricate plot and the threat to Sano and Reiko’s marriage; stresses Rowland’s display of class interest and political intrigue and depiction of daily life in a remote era.

Needham, George. Review of The Samurai’s Wife, by Laura Joh Rowland. Booklist 96, no. 13 (March 1, 2000): 1199. Describes premises of the novel challenging Sano and Reiko to cooperate with their adversary Yanagisawa to mediate between the shogun and emperor.

Pitt, David. Review of Red Chrysanthemum, by Laura Joh Rowland. Booklist 103, no. 3 (October 1, 2006): 42. Positive review; praises Rowland for bringing her series back on track with entertaining new ideas and vibrant plots in her last three novels.

Rowland, Laura Joh. Laura Joh Rowland: Home of the Sano Ichiro Mystery Series. Author’s Web site features introductions and critical blurbs for her most recent novels, interviews with photographs, news, and dates of speaking engagements. Her latest novel is always presented.