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The Concubine's Tattoo (Sano Ichiro, #4)
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The Concubine's Tattoo

(Sano Ichiro #4)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,918 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Twenty months spent as the shogun's sosakan-sama--most honorable investigator of events, situations, and people--has left Sano Ichiro weary. He looks forward to the comforts that his arranged marriage promises: a private life with a sweet, submissive wife and a month's holiday to celebrate their union. However, the death of the shogun's favorite concubine interrupts the co ...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published April 15th 2000 by St. Martin's Paperbacks (first published 1998)
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3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,918 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: murder mystery or Japanese history readers
I didn't realize this was the 4th in the series but Joh Rowland writes well enough that this is easily read as a stand-alone. It's a basic murder-mystery-with-romance genre set during the Tokugawa shogunate era in Japan.

I enjoyed the historical/cultural setting more than most of the plot or characters, though one major villain of the piece, the hero's nemesis (because heroes must have nemeses apparently) does end up the most interesting of the characters. Joh Rowland did an OK job with the myste
So. Rowland's books about Sano Ichiro the Edo-era detective are my guilty pleasure, because they are so cheesy it's charming. Reading them is like watching a cheap theatrical production: everything just reeks of cardboard and paint, but the actors are so serious and sweaty that it becomes fun to watch them.

There was not even one character behaving reasonably: neither Sano the shogun's investigator, nor his subordinates, his rival Chamberlain Yanagisawa, Sano's new wife Reiko (!), shogun's mother
Oct 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
I like the main character, the mystery was interesting. However, political machinations, whether historical or current, leave me cold.

The relationship between the detective and his new wife was very unsatisfactory. After two meetings that both ended in slammed doors or screaming, I don't buy it that (in addition to being sexually aroused), the two began to fall in love. Two brief arguments and two days of (arranged) marriage do not a convincing couple make. If the author wanted to pull in the "
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book was really good. I personally really like crime stories, and to read one from the ancient Japan... oh it's Christmas!
The story was awesome, and I've only figured who was the murederer not long before Sano and Hirata, so I was glad! :)
Anyway I've read it wrongly... When I got this book I did not know this was a series and not even the first volume... fortunately I did not have much disadvantage because I did not read the previous volumes.
I really liked the auothor's writing style, also I
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Set in 1690 Tokyo. Very good historical mystery. Lots of detail around like especially for women in 1690 Japan. Research is very good on social customs. The mystery was well paced and layed out. You will guess several characters through out. She does a good job of showing different types of characters in attibutes in this book. It is book 4 of the series but start with book 1.
Lih Hwan
Apr 15, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I just spent an excruciating 2 days trying to finish this book.

Basic review: Sano san got married, but a murder occurred at the same time. The murder involved a concubine of the Shogun, which would inevitably pull all of the weight of the internal politics on to Sano San.

Like the previous books, the pacing goes back and forth between characters of importance. We are now introduced to Sano san's new wife and given yet another angle to view Hirata, his retainer. I did enjoy the character developme
Sep 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love reading about Japan's history and I am especially fascinated by the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate was established. Incidentally, it officially began on my birthday (as I've read and heard) in 1603 which can't be mere coincidence and readily explains my interest for the era. This detective series is very well written. Laura Joh Rowland intricately weaves the history, the unflinching beliefs of the samurai of Feudal Japan, and the endearing love story between the sosakan-sama (Sano ...more
Jan 05, 2010 rated it liked it
I had never heard of the Sano Ichiro series when I picked up this mystery, but it hooked me immediately. I went back and read the first three (Shinjuu, Bundori and The Way of the Traitor), but this one was the best of them, so I am glad I read it first.

The period details are excellent, as is the author's ability to write the characters as people of their time, not as people with 21st-century thinking transported to the 1600s. Rowland's descriptions are effective, and her characters are complex.

I have liked the first 3 of the Sano Ichiro books more than this one. The mystery itself is intriguing, but there is far too much gratuitous, explicit sex in the book for my taste. This was not so much a part of the first three books, but for some reason it is in this one. It was almost enough to keep me from reading the fifth book in the series, but I decided to give the Sano Ichiro books another chance, because there are not many fiction stories set in feudal Japan, and I do like the character ...more
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is the 4th book in the well-written mystery series featuring Sano, a samuai detective. I especially enjoyed Sano's encounters with his assertive new bride and his growing understanding of the stultifying life of women in the late 1600's in Japan. My rating is based on my personal reaction to the plot which has many incidents of graphic sexual material, which I should have expected in a tale called The Concubine's Tattoo -- it's about "concubinage." But it's also about voyeurism, sexual viol ...more
Danielle Morency
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
During the era of shoguns, samurai, and rising threat of the Western world's influence, a detective struggles to raise his family, keep it safe from intrigues and plots, keep his honor, and perform his duty to a fickle ruler. I love Ms. Rowland's series. The time period is one that most are familiar with, and yet, with each novel, she reveals details that aren't so well known. I've devoured at least ten of her books, and there is nothing so far that will deter me from continuing to do so.
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
this one errs a bit on the soft-core porn side, but still compelling and fun.
Jul 06, 2017 rated it liked it
It's not the greatest book. It's probably the weakest one so far. But I'm just going to point out one issue that stuck with me the most.
Somehow I have a feeling feminists and SJW would tear this book apart, burn it in hell-fire and feed the ashes to the fishes. I'm none of those but I still find Reiko and Sano's relationship and their dynamic very unbalanced in solving their marriage problem. And I don't mean man-woman power struggle, but the way they compromise. On one side Reiko wants to be ta
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
El tatuaje de la concubina es una novela de misterio que trata de la investigación de un asesinato ambientada en el Japón del s. XVII. Es una lectura fácil y entretenida. Las perversiones sexuales retorcidas de los personajes no me han dejado indiferente en ningún momento. Además, personajes tan entrañables como Reiko y Sano hacen que te encariñes fácilmente de ellos.
Muy recomendable. Le doy 4 estrellas porque no ha conseguido sorprenderme como lo han hecho otras lecturas, pero he disfrutado muc
Corinne Morier
AAAAAAAAAAAAH Sano and Reiko are my OTP. Reread this book for the first time in like, five years and their meet-cute in this book is so unique and adorkable. The pacing in this book is amazing, though the conclusion feels a bit rushed. Particularly how Sano finds the location of the villa just in time to (view spoiler) Sano is a stubborn arse and comes to terms with it in such a satisfying way. I love this entire series and will shove it do ...more
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
As with previous books I applaud the author’s knowledge of medieval Japan and the language portraying it. You can really imagine it as looking at a painting. Unfortunately after 3 books you start to see that’s what it is - a painting - not changing, not moving and closed within constraints of the frame the author meant it to be. It’s still enjoyable but it looses it appeal every time you look at it. Maybe the solution is not to look too often? I’ll probably visit it again, but it won’t be in the ...more
Sano gets married but before he can enjoy marital bliss he must solve the murder of the shogun's favorite concubine. I like the information about feudal Japan in the (1600s?), the way of life for commoners and royalty, power struggles and just human nature. Also the ongoing tension and intrigue between Sano and the ruler's second in command is intriguing. But this book seemed to have more lurid details, almost veering into a romance novel, which I could do without.
Shira Bea
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I like this book very much! Sano found love in Reiko, and he found new allies in Lade Keisho-in and Priest Ryuko. Also, Chamberlain Yanagisawa's plotting has been stopped. But seriously though, I am getting tired of Yanagisawa's plotting, scheming, and his jealousy towards Sano.
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: yuck
Too much graphic content. Too bad because I really like this author.
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very tangled web of intrigue with a twist at the end.
Good mystery.
May 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: mine-m
2.5 stars

I picked up this book because of the blurb in the back. It would be fun to read a high ranking woman that has spunk and knows how fight in medieval japan.


In th end I just found her irritating.
And I know the MC is just a product of his time and all, but his chauvisnistic views are also irritating. Tho ok, he did change his views later into the story.

let's just say i wouldn't want to read it again.
Jul 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Emperor Tokugawa Tsunayoshi’s concubine has died while carving a tattoo onto her body. The emperor’s lead investigator, Sano Ichiro, must solve the mystery of her death while navigating the delicate balance of the court, the conflicted allegiances of his right-hand-man, and his new wife’s feminist ideals.

The Concubine’s Tattoois genre-fiction; there’s no mistaking it. It makes the unfortunate poor writing choices that most detective mysteries seem to make. If characters are developed at all, it
The Concubine's Tattoo is written so much better than The Way of the Traitor, that I can barely believe that the same person wrote these two stories! In The Concubine's Tattoo Laura Joh Rowland is back to writing beautiful lines that are evocative of Japanese poetry. The plot moves along at a steady and rewarding pace, and there is some real growth in Sano, the main character.

Where The Way of the Traitor explored Japan's relationship with Western cultures, The Concubine's Tattoo really looks har
Jul 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical, mystery
I picked up the Concubine's Tattoo over the holidays with the plan of reading the next of the Sano Ichiro mysteries soon. With the start of the New Year, I delved into the book and found myself drawn forward. I was not disappointed.

The book begins in Edo, days after Sano Ichiro's return from Nagasaki, at the wedding between Ichiro and Ueda Reiko. The celebration is cut short when Harume, one of the shogun's concubines, runs out from the Large Interior into the procession of concubines and dies.
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Concubine's Tattoo boasts one of Rowland's best opening sequences (in which the discovery of a murder abruptly halts Sano's wedding festivities) and an intriguing mystery that explores the relationships at the Shogun's court yet the novel did not grab me as much as previous entries in the series managed to.

While the mystery itself is actually quite interesting and entertaining, this entry in the series marks a point of transition as we get to know the character of Sano's new wife (who shares
Needed a light mystery to get involved in after plundering through the October Horse--see previous review..and I found just that in this 300+ page book. This mystery takes place in 17th century Japan and it begins with one of the shogun's concubines succumbing to a horrible death. It then falls on the lead detective to solve this mystery, on his wedding day! The story then transgresses, rather seamlessly I might add, to explore the plight of all women in this culture, the relationship between th ...more
Dec 03, 2015 rated it it was ok
It is so hard to rate this, on the one hand it was a beautiful recreation of Edo Period Japan and on the other hand it was a hot mess of tangential storylines, deviant sex, complex backstories....

I remembered half way through why I don't like Laura Joh Rowland's book when she went off on a tangent for the third or fourth time. Honestly, I did not need to know all the inner thoughts and childhood of ALL these characters, in truth only Lady Miyagi and Yanagisawa's childhoods really have bearing on
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a change from the last, face-paced installment. Sano Ichiro is back in Edo, getting his wedding festivities interrupted by the death of the Shogun's favorite concubine. The period detail and mystery were good, as usual -- Laura Joh Rowland is a master of misdirection -- but as the book progressed, I was starting to get a little tired of all the sex. Fortunately, it becomes clear towards the end that it isn't wholly gratuitous, so I wasn't as annoyed as I might have been. I didn't tota ...more
Feb 13, 2012 rated it liked it
A light but entertaining read. Once again Rowland creates a fascinating world in Japan's Edo Period. It was interesting to read the history of Tokyo and compare its appearance to its modern version. It seemed that so much and also so little have changed in the centuries that have passed. I was in the district of Asakusa last month and the place in Sano's time can still be seen there; there are still many shops around and the temples are still very much visited by the Japanese. (There was even a ...more
Jun 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Už zahájení je originální. většina knih z červení knihovny končí svatbou, tahle detektivka svatbou a navíc hlavního hrdiny začíná a až minimálně do půlky knihy se novomanželé nedostanou k naplnění manželství.
Velká část děje se odehrává v harému, jedna z podezřelých se úspěšně brání výslechu tím, že jednoho z detektivů různě sexuálně uspokojuje. A z různých sexuálních libůstek tu narazíte nejen na S/Mko, ženskou i mužskou homoerotiku a tak podobně. Dozvíme se, že zatímco si gaidžinští mužové v mi
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Granddaughter of Chinese and Korean immigrants, Laura Joh Rowland grew up in Michigan and where she graduated with a B.S. in microbiology and a Master of Public Health at the University of Michigan. She currently lives in New Orleans with her husband. She has worked as a chemist, microbiologist, sanitary inspector and quality engineer.

Other books in the series

Sano Ichiro (1 - 10 of 18 books)
  • Shinju (Sano Ichiro, #1)
  • Bundori (Sano Ichiro, #2)
  • The Way of the Traitor  (Sano Ichiro, #3)
  • The Samurai's Wife (Sano Ichiro, #5)
  • Black Lotus (Sano Ichiro, #6)
  • The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria (Sano Ichiro, #7)
  • The Dragon King's Palace (Sano Ichiro, #8)
  • The Perfumed Sleeve (Sano Ichiro, #9)
  • The Assassin's Touch (Sano Ichiro, #10)
  • Red Chrysanthemum (Sano Ichiro, #11)
“Let hunger sharpen your awareness. Abstain liquor and frivolous recreation, which dull the mind and weaken the body.” 17 likes
“She needed someone to worship; he needed slavish devotion. They became inseparable companions.” 3 likes
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