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  Red Chrysanthemum by . . .
Laura Joh Rowland
"... compelling story line, evocative detail ..."
— Publisher's Weekly


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Excerpt from RED CHRYSANTHEMUM

Edo, Genroku Period, Year 11, Month 6
(Tokyo, July 1698)

1

Cover: Red Chrysanthemum by Laura Joh Rowland Thunder rumbled in the summer dawn. Storm clouds absorbed the light breaking above the hills outside Edo while ashes drifted upon smoke from a fire during the night. Up a broad avenue in the daimyo district, where the feudal lords had their city estates, rode a squadron of samurai. Their horses’ hooves clattered, disturbing the quiet; their lanterns flickered in the humid air. Night watchmen slouching against the high stone walls that lined the street jerked to attention, surprised by the sudden excitement at the end of a long, uneventful shift. Windows opened in the barracks that topped the walls; sleepy, curious soldiers peered out as the squadron halted outside the gate of Lord Mori, daimyo of Suwo and Nagato Provinces.

Hirata dismounted, strode up to the soldiers guarding the portals, and said, “I’m here to raid this estate. Let us in.”

Even as offense crossed their faces, the guards swung open the gates. They’d spied the triple hollyhock leaf crest, symbol of the ruling Tokugawa regime, that Hirata and his men wore on their armor tunics. Even the powerful provincial lords must bow to Tokugawa authority. And they recognized Hirata as the shogun’s sosakan sama—Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People. They dared not disobey him.

As Hirata invaded the estate with the hundred men of his detective corps, he walked with a limp from a serious injury that had healed but still caused him pain. Yet he kept up a quick pace at the head of his troops. Cries of confusion erupted as Lord Mori’s troops swarmed the courtyard.

“Round everybody up,” Hirata ordered his men. “No one leaves or enters the estate until we’re done. Search this whole place. You know what to look for.”

The detectives hastened to comply. Shouting, defiance, and tussles met them. Hirata, accompanied by a team of troops and his two principle retainers, Detectives Inoue and Arai, marched through the inner gate. Across a formal garden of rocks and twisted shrubs loomed the daimyo’s mansion, a large, half timbered structure with multiple wings and peaked tile roofs, mounted on a granite foundation. A samurai bustled out the door and rushed down the stone path to meet Hirata.

“I’m Akera Kanko, chief retainer to Lord Mori.” He was some fifty years of age, pompous and stout. “Why are you intruding on my master?”

“He’s under investigation for treason,” Hirata said as he and his men advanced on the mansion. “I’m going to inspect his premises and interrogate everybody here.”

“Treason?” Akera huffed in outrage; he ran to keep up with Hirata. “With all due respect, but Lord Mori is no traitor. He’s a loyal subject of the shogun and an ally of his honorable cousin Lord Matsudaira.”

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Hirata said.

Several months of investigation had convinced him that Lord Mori was conspiring against Lord Matsudaira, who ruled Japan through the shogun. During the four years since he’d seized power after a war with an opposing faction, Lord Matsudaira had evolved from a just, reasonable man to a tyrant fearful of losing his position. He’d demoted and banished officials he didn’t trust; he’d subjected the daimyo to strict supervision and harsh fines for perceived offenses. This had spawned widespread disgruntlement and many plots to overthrow him.

While Hirata mounted the stairs, excitement flared in him. Today he would find proof of the conspiracy. His investigation would end with the arrest, conviction, and ritual suicide of a traitor. Hirata would serve his honor by defending his superior at a time when his honor badly needed serving and his reputation with Lord Matsudaira and the shogun could use some improvement. He was thirty one years old, with a career as a police officer behind him and three years in this post, and he should be able to stay out of trouble, but it seemed he never could.

Now Akera looked terrified. Everyone knew that the penalty for treason was death, and not just for the traitor, but all his family and close associates. “There must be a mistake!”

“Where is Lord Mori?” Hirata asked.

“In his private chambers,” Akera said.

“Take me there,” Hirata said.

“No one is allowed to disturb Lord Mori without his permission,” Akera objected.

“I don’t need his permission,” Hirata said. “I have Lord Matsudaira’s orders.”

“Very well.”

Resigned yet nervous, Akera led Hirata, Inoue, and Arai to a compound at the heart of the estate. There, a spacious garden, landscaped with lush trees, was so quiet that Hirata could hear frogs peeping and crickets chirping. Insects swarmed over a reed fringed pond coated with green scum. A cloying, sweet scent of flowers mingled with the rank odor of privies. At the center stood a rustic villa. Ivy draped its barred windows; deep eaves sheltered the veranda. Hirata and his companions approached the villa along one of several covered corridors that extended from the main mansion. They bypassed the guards stationed outside and stepped into the entryway.

The detectives shone their lanterns beyond, illuminating a maze like space divided by partitions. The air was warmer and staler than outside. Hirata had a sudden impression that something was wrong. He and the detectives exchanged frowns. At the same moment they heard whimpering. The sour, metallic odor of blood hit them.

Behind them, on the veranda, Akera said, “What is it?”

Hirata motioned Akera to keep quiet. He and his men tiptoed through the maze of rooms, skirted partitions, edged around furniture. The whimpering grew louder, punctuated by sobs. It came from the villa’s far end, where a gap yawned in the partitions. The smell of blood grew stronger. Hirata and his men halted and peered through the gap.

Inside was a bedchamber inhabited by two nude figures, one a man, the other a woman. The man’s heavyset body lay prone on a futon. The woman knelt close to the man, bent over him. Her long black hair veiled her nakedness and her face. She whimpered, sobbed, and gasped as she shook his shoulders. Where his genitals should have been, a red wound glistened. Blood that had spilled from the wound, and from gashes in his torso, drenched the bed and spread in a thick puddle on the tatami floor. A chrysanthemum rested in the puddle, its cut stem submerged, its white petals stained crimson. Nearby, alongside a heap of robes, lay a dagger with a bloodstained blade and the man’s severed penis and testicles.

Hirata and his men exclaimed in horrified unison. Akera, who’d followed them, cried, “Lord Mori!”

The woman looked up. Her hair fell aside to reveal her bare breasts and swollen abdomen. Red smears of Lord Mori’s blood colored her pale skin. Her delicate, pretty features were contorted by shock and terror, her eyes wild. As she tried to cover herself with her hands, Hirata noted that she was some four months pregnant.

Akera rushed into the room and fell to his knees beside Lord Mori. He shouted his master’s name and seized his hand, but Lord Mori neither answered nor stirred.

Detective Arai crouched, felt Lord Mori’s pulse, and bent over to listen for breath. “He’s dead.”

But Hirata barely listened. He and the woman stared at each other in amazed mutual recognition. “Lady Reiko,” Hirata said in a voice hushed with disbelief.

She was the wife of Chamberlain Sano, the man Hirata called master. Hirata’s horror at the mutilation and death of Lord Mori increased tenfold. “Merciful gods, what are you doing here?”

Reiko shook her head as if dazed. She cowered under the men’s scrutiny, while outside the thunder boomed and rain fell in a torrent.

Akera staggered over to her. “She murdered Lord Mori!” he cried, his face livid with rage, his finger jabbing at Reiko in accusation. “She cut off his manhood and killed him!”

 

2


The rain poured down on Edo. Townsfolk waded through flooded streets. Merchants peered out from behind storm shutters pulled across their shops. Curtains of water veiled the hill upon which Edo Castle stood. Within the castle, guards huddled in turrets and enclosed corridors atop the high stone walls. Soldiers in dripping armor patrolled the soaked passages. But inside his office in a compound near the palace, Chamberlain Sano sat dry and comfortable with General Isogai, who was commander of the Tokugawa army, and two members of the Council of Elders that was Japan’s chief governing body.

“We’ve requested this meeting to discuss some disturbing recent developments,” said Elder Ohgami Kaoru. He had white hair and pensive, youthful features. He was in charge of the Tokugawa government’s relations with the daimyo class.

“The first is an incident in Bizen Province four days ago,” continued Elder Uemori Yoichi, the shogun’s chief military adviser. He inhaled on his tobacco pipe and let out a deep, phlegmy cough that shook his loose jowls.

“I’m aware of the incident,” Sano said. “The outlaw rebels have struck again.”

During the three years since the war, the former chamberlain Yanagisawa’s underground partisans were still fighting Lord Matsudaira’s regime within the Tokugawa regime. Many had been captured and executed, but the survivors had recruited new troops from among peasants, gangsters, and disgruntled Tokugawa vassals. They concentrated their attacks on the provinces, where the Tokugawa forces were less numerous.

“This time they ambushed Lord Ikeda’s army,” Sano elaborated. They were after the allies that had supported Lord Matsudaira’s ousting of Yanagisawa, and they’d devised warfare tactics that utilized their relatively small forces to maximum effect. These included sniping, ambush, and arson, plus sabotage of buildings, bridges, roads, and agriculture. “They killed twenty men, then escaped into the woods.”

Everyone looked none too pleased that Sano was so well informed. He knew they’d like to control his access to news, the better to control him. But he had a private intelligence service, his defense against ignorance, a fatal weakness for the shogun’s second in command.

“My troops are doing the best they can to stop the outlaws.” General Isogai had a loud, forthright manner and a bulbous physique. “But they’re spread too thin. And Edo is vulnerable because so much of the army is deployed to the provinces. Let’s pray that the outlaws aren’t planning a major attack here.”

“We won’t know until it’s too late,” Ohgami said.

Uemori nodded. “The metsuke is spread as thin as the army.” The official intelligence service had been working overtime because Lord Matsudaira had its agents keeping tabs on his growing opposition within the government.

Thunder cracked; rain cascaded from the eaves. “This weather doesn’t help,” General Isogai muttered.

It had been an exceptionally wet rainy season, with serious, countrywide flooding. Every news dispatch contained stories of washed out villages, of families drowned or homeless.

“Nor does it help that so many townspeople have rushed to take advantage of a bad situation,” Ohgami said.

“Crime is rampant,” Uemori noted. “Thieves are looting flooded homes and businesses. Edo Jail is overflowing.”

“Many members of the bakufu have also taken advantage.” Ohgami grimaced in disgust at his colleagues in the military government that ruled Japan. “Officials have embezzled from the treasury and stolen from the Tokugawa rice stores. Tax collectors are taking bribes from daimyo and merchants to reduce taxes and falsify the account books. We have such a serious shortfall of funds that we may not be able to pay stipends to the thousands of samurai in the regime.”

“Well, we know one cause of those problems,” Ohgami said. “It is all the officials who are new to their posts.”

During the purge immediately after the war, many experienced officials had been replaced by men whose main qualification was loyalty to Lord Matsudaira. The novices didn’t know how to discipline their idle, corrupt underlings.

Sano grew restless because the elders were prone to complain rather than take action. “Well, unless anyone has any solutions, may we adjourn this meeting?” He was nominally their superior, but their seniority and age gave them special standing, and he pretended to defer to them.

“Not so fast,” General Isogai said. “We’ve one more topic to discuss.”

“It’s the methods you’ve used to solve the problems,” Uemori said.

Ohgami hastened to say, “Not that we mean to criticize you for taking action when others couldn’t.”

Sano heard the shared, unspoken thought that the shogun was a fool, useless at administration, and Lord Matsudaira couldn’t handle the problems either because he was too busy maintaining his political power to bother with the specifics of governing.

“Please go on.” Sano knew from experience that the men were about to criticize him, regardless of their disclaimers.

“You certainly have made progress toward straightening out the regime’s finances,” Uemori said in grudging admission.

Sano had sent his private spies to watch the treasury and the rice warehouses. He’d caught thieves, recovered loot, and restored the flow of money into the Tokugawa coffers.

“And you’ve reestablished a semblance of law and order in the city,” Ohgami said. During the past three years, Sano had built up a large personal army, which he’d assigned to patrol the streets and help out the police.

“We thank you for taking on tasks that another man in your position might perceive as below his station,” Uemori said.

Sano nodded, acknowledging that he’d been given the dirty work of the regime. He’d done what he had to do, and he couldn’t help being proud of what he’d achieved. “But . . . ?” he prompted.

Ohgami spoke delicately: “Your methods have been rather, shall we say, unconventional.”

That was not a positive attribute in a society that valued conformity and custom.

“I’ll say.” General Isogai chuckled. “It was brilliant of you to punish the thieving officials and the idle bums by sending them to help out in flood disaster zones. And I like how you made the daimyo tax cheats run jails on their estates. That’s turning rotten plums into good wine.”

Ohgami coughed. “The shogun and Lord Matsudaira appreciate your competence. And you’re much admired by many people.” Sano had built up a large following of military allies among daimyo and Tokugawa vassals who respected him because he was honorable as well as powerful. They included the two elders—who were top advisers to the shogun—and General Isogai, who could lend the might of the Tokugawa army to anyone he wished.

“But you’re feared by others because of your control over society,” said Ohgami. “You’ve made a lot of powerful enemies.”

Which included people Sano had punished. General Isogai said, “How many assassination attempts on you have there been this year? Three?”

“Four.” Sano had been ambushed, attacked on the street, shot at, and almost poisoned. He now employed a food taster and never went anywhere without bodyguards.

“Police Commissioner Hoshina hasn’t missed the opportunity to lure your enemies into his camp,” said Uemori.

Hoshina had been Sano’s foe for seven years; he’d worked tirelessly to bring Sano down.

“I’m aware of that.” Sano’s expression hinted that if the men had some news, they’d better come out with it now.

“What you may not be aware of is that Hoshina has begun a new campaign to discredit you,” Uemori said. “Some of his new allies have great influence with the shogun and Lord Matsudaira.”

“Lord Matsudaira can’t afford to lose their support,” Uemori added. “No matter how much he respects you and depends on you, he may give in to their pressure to get rid of you because he’s afraid to offend them and have them turn on him.”

The possibility hadn’t escaped Sano’s notice. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He experienced a twinge of surprise at the life he led. How far he’d come from his humble origin as a son of a ronin, earning his rice by teaching martial arts! Such bizarre twists of fate had brought him here! And his exalted status was a mixed blessing.

He hated living in constant fear for his life, with hardly a moment of solitude or freedom. Politics was dirty business. He would prefer a good, clean sword battle any day. And the higher he rose, the greater the danger of falling. Most days Sano was confident that he could stay on top, but he was almost forty years old and sometimes he felt his mortality. His hair was turning gray. Stiff muscles irritated him. A bad beating three years ago, from an assassin dubbed The Ghost, didn’t help. Still, his job as chamberlain was his destiny as well as his duty, a source of satisfaction as well as trouble.

General Isogai said, “Here’s something else to keep in mind: If you go down, so do a crowd of other folks.” His gaze touched on each Elder before returning to Sano.

“The time may be coming when we and your other allies can no longer afford to be associated with you,” said Uemori.

“For the sake of self preservation, we may be forced to make different arrangements,” Ohgami concluded.

Sano had foreseen the possibility of losing their support; allegiances constantly shifted in the bakufu. But that didn’t lessen his dismay that it could happen so soon. Should his allies desert him, Sano would be doomed to demotion, banishment, and perhaps death. His family would suffer even more.

“I appreciate your loyalty, and I understand your position,” he said in an attempt to appease the men. “What would you have me do?”

General Isogai answered, blunt, forceful: “Back off on making any more enemies.”

“Placate the ones you already have,” Uemori said.

“Try to avoid getting in any more trouble,” said Ohgami.

During the tense, unfriendly silence that followed, Detective Marume appeared in the doorway. “Excuse me, Honorable Chamberlain.” The tall, burly samurai had been a member of Sano’s detective corps when Sano was sosakan sama; now he was a bodyguard and general assistant. “Sorry to interrupt, but Hirata san is here to see you.”

Sano was surprised because although Hirata was technically his chief retainer, they didn’t have much to do with each other these days. While Sano ran the government, Hirata kept busy investigating crimes.

“It can’t wait.” Marume’s expression was somber rather than characteristically jovial.

Sano dismissed General Isogai and the elders. As he and Marume walked down the corridor, Sano said, “What’s this about?”

“Your wife. There’s been some kind of trouble.”

“Reiko?” Alarm jolted Sano. He hurried to his private quarters. There he found Hirata and Reiko kneeling in her chamber. With them was Reiko’s old childhood nurse O sugi.

Hirata looked relieved to see Sano. “Greetings.”

“What’s going on?” Sano noticed that Hirata appeared healthier, more fit, yet strangely older than the last time they’d met a few months ago. But Reiko quickly captured his attention.

She was wrapped in a quilt, shivering violently despite the summer heat. Her hair hung in damp strings. Her face wore a stunned, sick expression. Her complexion was blanched, her lips colorless. O sugi hovered anxiously near her, holding a bowl of hot tea. Reiko beheld Sano with blurred eyes, as if she couldn’t quite figure out who he was.

“ What’s wrong?” he exclaimed as he knelt beside her. He started to take her in his arms, but she flung up her hands to prevent him.

“Don’t touch me!” she cried. “The blood. It’ll get on you.”

“We washed it off, little one,” O sugi said in a soothing voice. “It’s all gone.”

“What blood?” Sano demanded, growing more confused and alarmed by the moment. A disturbing thought occurred to him. “Was it the baby?” He feared Reiko had lost their child.

“No, the baby’s fine,” O sugi assured him, but worry clouded her kind, wrinkled face. She held the tea bowl to Reiko’s lips. The steam smelled of medicinal herbs. “Try to drink, dearest. It will make you feel better.”

Reiko pushed the bowl away. An attack of dry heaves doubled her over.

Sano turned to Hirata. “What happened?”

Hirata’s grave expression warned Sano that the problem was serious. “I found her at Lord Mori’s estate.”

Surprise jarred Sano. He couldn’t think what business Reiko had there. “When was this?”

“About an hour ago,” Hirata said.

Sano hadn’t known that Reiko had left the house. On most nights since she’d become pregnant this time, they’d not shared a bed. Sano often came home late from work, and he’d slept in a guest room rather than disturb her rest. Now he was dismayed to realize that he had no idea what Reiko did while he was busy running the country and fending off attacks from rivals. They had so little time together; they seldom talked. She could have been gone almost every night and he wouldn’t have noticed.

“What was she doing at Lord Mori’s estate?” Sano asked Hirata.

“I don’t know. She hasn’t said.” Hirata glanced warily at Reiko as O sugi tried to comfort her. “But . . . ” He inhaled a deep breath. Sano recalled the many times when Hirata had fulfilled the chief retainer’s duty of telling his master things he needed to hear but wouldn’t like. “Lord Mori has been castrated and stabbed to death. I found Lady Reiko alone with him in his bedchamber. She was naked and covered with blood. I’m sorry to say that it looks as if she killed him.”

Sano felt his jaw drop. Shock slammed him like a blow to the core of him.

“If she were anybody other than your wife, I’d have arrested her and taken her to jail,” Hirata added. “Instead, I gave her the benefit of doubt and brought her home.

Even while Sano stared at Reiko in disbelief and horror dazed him, his mind calculated ramifications. His wife caught at the scene of a murder was bad enough. That the victim was an important daimyo who happened to be a major ally of Lord Matsudaira promised disaster. The penalty for murder was death by decapitation, and although the law was lenient for high ranking members of the samurai class, in this case even Sano’s power might not protect Reiko even if she was innocent.

If indeed she was.

Sano experienced fresh horror at his thought that Reiko might be guilty. This was his wife of eight years, the mother of his son, the woman he passionately loved, whose character he held in the highest esteem. She would never murder anyone!

Yet what had she been doing naked in Lord Mori’s bedchamber? Possibilities that Sano didn’t want to consider multiplied in his mind. Doubts gnawed at the trust between him and Reiko. They’d drifted so far apart; did he even know her anymore?

He seized her shoulders and demanded, “Did you kill Lord Mori?”

“No!” Reiko’s reply was loud with hurt and outrage at his accusation. But confusion drifted across her gaze. “At least I don’t think I did.” Her manner turned plaintive: “I couldn’t have, could I?”

“Of course not,” O sugi said, staunchly loyal to Reiko.

But Sano was far from satisfied by Reiko’s answer. He turned to Hirata, who shrugged helplessly and said, “That’s what she told me.”

“Well, if you didn’t kill Lord Mori, who did?” Sano asked Reiko.

“I don’t know.” Tears leaked from her eyes.

Impatience girded Sano against the sympathy that rose in him. He shook Reiko. “What happened? Tell me!”

“I don’t know,” she wailed. “I can’t remember.”

Sano had heard this from too many murder suspects trying to hide their guilt. “I don’t believe you. What were you doing with Lord Mori? I want a straight answer.”

She drew a long, shaky breath, swallowed, and rubbed her face. “I was looking for the boy. I was only trying to help.”

That made no sense. “What boy? Help whom?”

Reiko spoke over his questions: “I never meant to hurt anyone. Lord Mori was a terrible, evil man.”

Coldness stabbed like ice crystals into Sano’s bones. What she’d said could be interpreted as a confession to murder. He clutched Reiko tighter. “Maybe you don’t realize it, but you’re in serious trouble. If you want me to help you, you must tell me the truth. Now what happened?”

“I am telling you the truth!” Hysteria raised Reiko’s voice. She twisted in his grasp. “You’re hurting me. Let go!”

Sano held on, shouting at her in desperation: “Did you kill Lord Mori? Tell me!” As Reiko sobbed and babbled incoherently, he felt someone watching them. He turned and saw Masahiro standing in the doorway.

“Mama? Papa?” Seven years old, tall and serious for his age, Masahiro carried a wooden sword. His white jacket and trousers were dirty and his hair tousled from martial arts lessons. “What’s the matter?”

Sano was dismayed by the sudden awareness that he spent even less time with his son than with Reiko. Masahiro was growing up so fast that Sano barely knew him. Sano’s three years as chamberlain had taken its toll on his family life. Now he hastened to shield the boy from parental problems. “Masahiro, go outside.”

“But why is Mama crying?” Masahiro said. “What are you doing to her?”

“Nothing. It’s all right,” Sano said. “O sugi, take him outside. Now!”

The nurse bustled Masahiro away. Reiko buried her face in her hands and wept. “I can’t believe things have turned out so badly! And I still haven’t found him!”

Sano shook his head in incomprehension. But whatever had happened, he must take quick action to protect Reiko and minimize the damage. Turning to Hirata, he said, “Who else knows about this?”

“Just my men and myself.” Hirata reconsidered. “And by now, probably everyone in the Mori estate.”

That would be hundreds of people, including the daimyo’s family members, retainers, and servants. Sano blew out his breath. “Well, keep the news from spreading any further for as long as possible.”

“I’ve already closed off the estate,” Hirata said.

“Good. What have you learned about the murder?”

“Nothing yet. I thought I’d better bring Lady Reiko home.”

“I want you to go back to the estate and start figuring out what happened,” Sano said. “I’ll join you as soon as I can.”

“Yes, Honorable Chamberlain.” Hirata bowed and left.

Sano wished he could be in two places at once. He hadn’t investigated any crimes in three years, but even though it was no longer his job, he wanted to handle this one personally. He reassured himself that Hirata knew what to do. Sano’s immediate problem was Reiko. He grabbed her hands and pulled them away from her face.

“Reiko,” he said, “listen to me.”

She gazed at him with red, streaming eyes. Sobs tore her breath; tremors quaked her body.

“Lord Mori has been murdered,” Sano said, speaking slowly and clearly. “You look so guilty that if you were an ordinary citizen instead of my wife, you’d be executed. You might still be, unless we can come up with a reasonable explanation for why you were at the crime scene. Now tell me!”

“I did!” Reiko cried, her voice rising shriller in fresh, insistent agitation.

“You have to do better than that, or not even I can save you.” Fear and frustration turned Sano’s manner harsh. “Now one more time: What were you doing there?”

Words poured from Reiko in a babbling torrent: “I went to spy on him. I saw him do it.” Keening and sobbing, she wrenched her hands out of Sano’s. “I wanted to stop him, but I was too late!”

Madness this all sounded! In desperation, Sano slapped her cheek. Reiko screamed. She drew back and stared at him, more shocked than hurt—he’d never struck her before. But she was suddenly quiet.

“I’m sorry,” Sano said, regretful and ashamed. “I didn’t know how else to bring you to your senses. We don’t have much time. And all this excitement isn’t good for the baby.”

The mention of the baby seemed to revive Reiko’s awareness. She clasped her hands protectively across her swollen belly, sat up straight, and nodded. Her breath was still raspy with sniffles and emotion, but steadier.

“That’s better,” Sano said, relieved.

“So many things happened. One thing led to another,” Reiko murmured. “I don’t know where to start.”

At this rate, the news of the murder would spread all over town and a maelstrom of hazard and scandal would engulf them before Sano learned anything from her. He mustered his patience. “Start at the beginning.”

The dazed confusion cleared from Reiko’s face, like mist dissolving in sunlight. She looked more like her usual alert, sharp witted self. “The letter. It started with the letter. In cherry blossom time.”

 

Excerpt from RED CHRYSANTHEMUM
©Laura Joh Rowland, 2006
Published by St. Martin's Minotaur
ISBN 0-312-35532-7




"The compelling story line, evocative detail and suspense
should engage newcomers and satisfy longtime fans alike.
At a point when many series show signs of wear,
Rowland's characters remain fresh."
— Publishers Weekly on THE ASSASSIN'S TOUCH

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