Cult Fiction

Black Lotus” is the sixth novel set in 17th-century Shogunate Japan starring the Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations and People, Sano Ichiro, and his wife Reiko. Now married and the parents of a young boy, they are caught up in the activities of rising Buddist cult with much official support, but also with much to hide.

When an arson fire reveals three bodies in a house and a young woman found beaten and unconscious nearby, Sano enlists his wife’s help in questioning her. But pressures to solve the case quickly force a split between the couple, as Reiko gradually sympathizes with the orphan who had to choose between entering the temple or becoming a prostitute to support herself, and Sano’s need to solve the case quickly.

Complicating the case is Sano’s cultural upbringing, which taught him that the man is always right and that a woman’s shouldn’t get involved in anything as nasty as a murder investigation. Much of “Black Lotus” is caught up in the struggle between the strong-willed couple.

Rowland invests much of the series into opening the world of medieval Japan, with its unusual customs and deadly palace intrigues. But the conflict between Sano and the temple allows for less of that in “Black Lotus.” With the villains in place early and seemingly little in the way of a mystery to plumb, “Black Lotus” rings the changes with its characters and situations in an energetic but predictable fashion.