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The Fire Kimono

(Sano Ichiro #13)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  841 ratings  ·  80 reviews
Japan, March 1700. Near a Shinto shrine in the hills, a windstorm knocks down a tree to uncover a human skeleton, long buried and forgotten. Meanwhile, in the nearby city of Edo, troops ambush and attack Lady Reiko, the wife of Sano Ichiro, the samurai detective who has risen to power and influence in the shogun's court. The troops who attacked Reiko appear to belong to Sa ...more
Hardcover, 297 pages
Published November 11th 2008 by Minotaur Books (first published November 1st 2008)
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Showing 1-30
3.90  · 
Rating details
 ·  841 ratings  ·  80 reviews

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Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Before I put my review in, I have a question, and someone might know the answer- that's what I'm hoping anyway. In a series, why do authors feel compelled to recap what happened in previous adventures? And if they do, why not put is as part of a prologue, so that an individual not familiar with the characters can get a quick update or not and let this novel stand on its own? I unfortunately skipped 2 books when I picked this up, and now don't really feel the need to go back and read them as I al ...more
Barbara ★
This is the first book I've read in the series and honestly if I'd read the first one, I probably wouldn't have continued the series. For a book with only 300 pages, it was very repetitive. I felt like I was reading the same passage over and over again.

I loved the "feel" of feudal Japan and even the political machinations were interesting. My problem were the characters - everyone seemed two-dimensional except a few secondary characters who were more fleshed out. Maybe this is due to it being b
Another visit with the samurai detective Sano Ichiro is always a great time. Murder, thrills, swordfights, politcal intrigues, sex: Rowland always delivers a trashy but thrilling adventure.

The balnce shifts a little this time around, being less of a mystery-though there is always a mystery-and more of a political thriller. Actually, not so much the sex either. The book is probably better for this, since the mystery this time around is not up to Rowland's usual standards, though the quality of th
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
I find Laura Joh Rowland’s Sano Ichiro series entertaing. There is always a hint of a formula being used; Sano is at odds with his opponent in the Shogun’s court, it is dangerous for his family and himself, the odds are against him but good shall always prevail. Oh! And there’s always a bit of kinky sex. This may sound a bit too corny but Rowland manages to use this formula in ways that can end up keeping you enthralled, on the edge of your seat (as it were) wondering how the hell it’s all going ...more
Nov 24, 2008 rated it liked it
There are a ridiculous number of Sano Ichiro novels now, and I was sucked in long ago. Unfortunately, like so many series, the quality has declined probably due to the one novel a year production calendar. I care about the characters and want to see how it ends, so I will stick with it. Plus it's a fix when I'm jonesin' for all things Japanese.
Catherine Woodman
THis is supposed to take place at the beginning of the 18th century, but there is alot about it in terms of traditional Japanese samurai society that seems like it could be sooner or later than that (of course, i really know almost nothing of what I am talking about...). the plot does have quite a bit of intrigue, rivalry, trickery, and plot twists, which I largely enjoy, and allowed me to overlook my complete, or almost complete lack of interest in the social structure described. The mystery is ...more
Pramudith Rupasinghe
Apr 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Dec 24, 2018 rated it it was ok
I couldn’t even finish reading this tbh. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read any other books from the series? (I vowed I would never read a book from a series unless I started from the first and look what happened to me haha.)

I don’t know if this book was meant for a younger audience but I found the speech and writing style to be quite forced. It didn’t sound natural at all, rather it sounded kind of vaudevillian (not sure if I used this word right but I mean to say that the story sounded dramati
Dec 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another fast read...this time, the protagonist Chamberlain Sano must clear his mother's name of a murder. In the process, he learns heretofore unknown facts about his family background...what a shock! His mother does not cooperate and this makes her execution imminent. How will he get the facts he needs? Untangling the various strings of mystery, and a hired pretender, the truth is finally found.
Abigail Pankau
Feb 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good, solid continuation of this series. The mystery is intriguing, but the ongoing character arcs and layers of intrigue continue to be the best part.

If you have not read any other ones in the series - do not start here - start at the beginning of the series.
Jessica L Seay
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dottie Riggs
Mar 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful and exciting--a "one-sitting" delight.
Mika O'Donovan
Another novel in the Sano Ichiro series, with the requisite political machinations and murder, Fire Kimono follows the same general formula of the previous novels, but with added layers of familial loyalties that elevate the tale and give it deeper resonance. Although the author's formulaic approach in plotting and characterization are still evident, there are moments which flesh out some of the details and make the story more compelling.

The character of Lieutenant Asukai is portrayed more comp
Brian V
Feb 16, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin Vrieze
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
This one is among the best Rowland has written in the series. True there is a "formulaic" aspect to the story. Any mystery has that component. This one uses it and takes it to a very high level indeed. The layers of complexity in this story is really quite remarkable and demonstrates a level of understanding Asian culture that many just could not get. The Asukai character was very refreshing, if short lived. The Reiko/Sano and Hirata/Midori relationship developments are superbly done. An unusual ...more
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is one of my favorite books in the series, so far...

Fire Kimono primarily tells the story of Sano's mother, prior to her marriage to Sano's father. This is an interesting story as it implicates her in the killing of the shogun's cousin who was murdered years ago. Unveiling her story in this novel gave Sano another crime to solve bringing him and his whole clan in danger of banishment or worse, death.

The novel intricately weaves the lives of the characters as Sano and his team unearth the t
Nov 03, 2014 rated it liked it
A bit slow and hard to get into. Set in 18th-century Japan, Sano Ichiro, second in command to the shogun, is preparing for war against his enemy, Lord Matsudaira. The shogun is weak and unable to rule effectively and the two wage battle behind his back, each wanting to stop the other from gaining more power. During a storm, a skeleton is unearthed and discovered to be the body of the shogun's cousin, murdered 40 years earlier. Sano is sent to investigate, only to find that his own mother is impl ...more
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
#13 in the historical Japanese mystery series featuring Sano Ichiro. This story opens in March, 1700 with the continuing rivalry between Sano and a cousin to the Shogun for control of the country. Sano is less interested in the power than he is in preventing others from taking over. His rise to his present position of Lord Chamberlain started with him becoming a chief detective to the Shogun. In the middle of escalating conflict between him and the rival cousin, Sano is charged with solving the ...more
Mar 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, asian-lit
I lived in Japan for 5 months once. Even though the author claims to be the grandchild of Korean and Chinese immigrants, I still feel like this book is a very Americanized recreation of Judge Dee stories. There are many things historically accurate about this book; Tokugawa references, bakufu government, how Shinto shrines are arranged and well, how quickly old Japanese cities would burn due to the type of wood they used to build their houses before alternate materials were introduced. What I fo ...more
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
Once again I was transported into a completely different era full of conflict, wars, the need to maintain the family honor and the mystery of a long ago death. That death somehow has a connection to a Kimono that brought death to various young serving girls. And it's that mystery that the shogun wants Sano, his chamberlain to investigate. But Sano soon discovers that his mother may have had a hand in the murder. His understandable conflict with the need to solve this murder and also protect his ...more
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Rowland presents a compelling picture of Tokugawa Era Japan. I wouldn't exactly call it a mystery in the traditional sense. The detective doesn't so much find clues and make brilliant logical deductions as fight difficult political battles while waiting for those who know whodunit to break down and confess the truth.

One thing I thought was a little odd--though it didn't detract from the book--was that Rowland included not one but two couples experiencing stress in their marriage as characters i
Mar 16, 2010 rated it liked it
A skeletin is uncovered when a tree goes down near a Shinto shrine which is identified as Tadatoshi, a young relative of the shogun, who disappeared after a big fire 43 years previously. Soon, Sani's mother, Utsuko is arrested for the murder, accused by Doi, a samuri with Sani's enemy Lord Matsudaira. Sani cannot get his mother to talk with him, and things go from bad to worse. Sani finds the boy's tutor, Egen, who agrees to testify, and then accuses Sani's mother. Later Egen is found to be murd ...more
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is the 13th book in the Sano Ichiro series. A human skeleton is found when a tree near a Shinto shrine is knocked down. In the city troops attack Reiko, Sano's wife and they wore the crest of Lord Matsudaira which is Sano's greatest enemy. Lord Matsudaira's family compound is attacked with a bomb and they are blaming each other. They each deny the attacks. But who is responsible?
The strife comes close to war. When swords found with the skeleton prove that it is a cousin of the Shogun, Sano
Sep 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Caroline by: Xarah
This novel is a good mix of what some of the previous books in this series have been missing--a mix of good palace intrigue and a good central mystery to go along with it. The antics of Lord Mastudaira is made all the more interesting when Yanagisawa shows back up--he's such a "hate him so much that he starts to grow on me" kind of villain that I was actually pretty happy to have him be a more central figure in this novel, and am definitely looking forward to seeing how he'll figure into the nex ...more
Dec 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Book 13 in the series. After a slow start the story took off with the usual cast of characters, political intrigue and requisite mystery, this time a murder committed 43 years ago. In the process of solving the mystery new information is revealed about Sano's family and personal history. The ending is stellar with a first rate sword fight and twist that opens the door for many more additions to this long running series. I don't think Rowland's writing is always smooth or fluid, but her story lin ...more
Sep 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Set in 1700 Japan, Sano Ichiro, second in command to the shogun, is preparing for all-out war against his enemy, Lord Matsudaira. In the thick of this conflict, a skeleton is unearthed and discovered to be the body of the shogun's cousin, who vanished during the great fire that destroyed much of Edo 40 years earlier. Sano is sent to investigate, only to find that his own mother is implicated. If she is found guilty, Sano and his entire family may be executed. The unfolding of the mystery is exce ...more
Mr. Baad
Feb 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical, mystery
Though The Fire Kimono isn't exactly great writing, it is an interesting story, and I had a hard time putting it down once I got 100 pages in. Set in Japan around 1700, the plot focuses on a samurai, Sano, who serves as the chamberlain to the shogun. Sano's mother is accused of a murdering the shogun's cousin 40 years in the past, and Sano must prove her innocent or face the execution of his entire family as a consequence for her actions. Weaved into this plot is plenty of political intrigue as ...more
Nov 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Of all the crime fiction series' I read - more than is healthy, I'm sure (and don't care) - this is my favorite. Set in medieval Japan, it tells of the adventures of Sano Ichiro, samurai son of a ronin father and chief investigator for the shogun, and Ichiro's shrewd, irrepressible, "disobedient" wife, Reiko. Swords are swung, heads are lopped off, knives are hidden in kimono sleeves, blood flows, and crimes are busted. For anyone interested, the first book in the series is Shinju, a word that r ...more
Apr 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Laura Joh Rowland's series never ceases to amaze me. They are incredibly enjoyable and interesting! These books highlight why Japanese history is so great and unique.
My only minor complaint is with the main character, Sano. His values and beliefs, mainly about women and war, are very modernized and don't match the era and location he is in. I know he's meant to be the connection between the reader and the story but I find him a little unbelievable at times. But I commend the ending of the book
Richard Etzel
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Praise for Laura Joh Rowland includes a note from the Denver Post:"Sano may carry a sword and wear a kimono, but you'll immediately recognize him as an ancestor of Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade" because it's the story of 15th and 16th century detective who is charged with the task of solving a 43 year old murder of a 15 year old. Intrigue, revenge, passion and a host of other emotions all wrapped up in one story. I rated this book as a 4 star because it has clear and imaginative writing that tak ...more
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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 Concubine's Tattoo (Sano Ichiro, #4)
  • 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)