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.