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Black Lotus

(Sano Ichiro #6)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,383 ratings  ·  47 reviews
When veteran samurai-detective Sano Ichiro, the most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People, is called on to investigate the burning of a cottage belonging to the Black Lotus Temple, he makes a shocking discovery. The three victims of the blaze did not die in the fire, but were brutally murdered before the fire even began.

With a triple homicide on his ha
Paperback, 368 pages
Published 2002 by St. Martin's (first published 2001)
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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,383 ratings  ·  47 reviews

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Sano Ichiro is a samurai-detective. he is the Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People. He is investigating the burning of a cottage belonging to the Black Lotus Temple. There were 3 victims, the police chief, a woman and a small child. There was left a naked girl, Haru, who claimed to be an orphan and did not remember what happened. Sano was convinced that she was the guilty party and asked his wife for help investigating the crimes. His wife, Reiko, was convinced that Haru ...more
This is the 6th book in the series, and Rowland is still going strong. Sure, a lot of her storytelling elements have become quite familiar and predictable by now, but she always further develops the characters in ways that continually change the dynamics of her novels. The plot of this book is probably her simplest in the series to date, but the question of whether the little girl at the heart of the story is guilty or innocent is quite compelling and the answer difficult to guess. Like with mos ...more
Oh oh! This book was painful! I love the Sano series for its charming cheesiness, eager-to-please fake Japanese scenery and, last but not least, the occasional m/m action, but this!... Just awful.

First, there was no Chamberlain Yanagisawa (wtf? it's not like he needed some days off), so the slash factor was out. Second, the cheese was just too rotten: an evil Buddhist-like cult (without a single Buddhist characteristic) out to gain power in all of Japan, complete with orgies, tortures, brainwash
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In September of 1693, the Black Lotus Temple, spiritual center for hundreds of Buddhist nuns, monks, priests, and orphans, is burned to the ground leaving three dead and one orphan running for cover. Veteran samurai-detective Sano Ichiro, the Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations and People, is called on to investigate the incident. He quickly discovers that despite appearances, the victims did not die in the fire: they were brutally murdered before the fire even began.

Set in the lus
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another fast paced novel featuring Sano, Ichiro and his blossoming detective wife. In trying to find out the murderers of three people, things involving governmental and religious politics become complicated. The husband and wife duo fight over whose definition of justice is the correct one. A battle of wills.
Jul 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Overall, I liked this book -- the first samurai-era mystery I've read. Ever since I saw James Clavell's Shogun TV miniseries, I've always wanted to read more about the Shogunate period of Japanese history: samurai, bushido, etc.

Two strikes:

First, the protagonist Sano Ichiro's wife, Reiko always injected herself into her husband's investigations. She was always strong-willed -- but this is 1600s Japan and her boldness would have been perceived as impertinent and out of place. To be fair, Reiko is
Mathieu Debic
Aug 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Overall I enjoyed this book. I'm a big fan of the historical detective story and, as an "apprentice historian," I feel a nerdy sense of glee when an author mentions a piece of historical trivia with which I am familiar. That being said, though I'm no expert on the Edo period or the Tokugawa Shogunate, I found quite a few historical inaccuracies in this book, and felt that what another reviewer called the "faux-Japanese" setting was somewhat cloying and trying-too-hard in places. This is the firs ...more
Oct 28, 2008 rated it it was ok
I was quite disappointed by this book. I thought it would be an interesting piece of historical fiction- a mystery embedded in ancient Japan. Yet the history was, to my understanding, shaky, the writing mediocre at best, and the plot was abysmal. Granted, part of the problem could be that I started this series midway, and I may end up giving it another shot with another book, but there really is no forgiving a mystery about a giant sadomasochistic Buddhist sex cult's plot to take over Japan. Cha ...more
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: japan, mystery
I picked up this middle book in a series at random to see what I thought of the characters and style. It started out well - I enjoyed Rowland's description of historic Tokyo. I thought she made it come to life without boring or distracting me with unnecessary details. The premise of a husband and wife detective team even seemed to bode well. Then she felt the need to create tension between the two of them in a way that felt entirely contrived, and it all fell apart. I ended up skimming the secon ...more
Mandy Tanksley
May 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Where do I begin? This sixth story about samurai-turned-detective Sano Ichiro is the first book I read from the series. I'm a big fan of all things Asian which began with a love if the Japanese culture with samurai lore playing a nice size role in that fascination. So, when I saw the cover of this book I immediately picked it up to see what it was about. I instantly knew I had to have it. Any time I had to read for fun (I was still in high school), was spent reading this book. I loved it. I'm so ...more
Dec 29, 2013 rated it liked it
This was my first read in the series and I absolutely swooned for the setting. Samurai-era Japan - what could be better! It even inspired me to do a little more research on the time period and that brought me great joy. But what kept me from loving this story was the conflict between Sano and Reiko and the sometimes bumbling decisions Reiko made in the name of stubbornness. I learned, reading this, that I like my detectives to be on the same page, for the most part at least. But I did love divin ...more
Mar 09, 2010 rated it liked it
This wasn't my favourite installment in the Sano Ichiro series, but I still got quite a bit of enjoyment out of it. Haru was irritating, and her annoyingness seemed to rub off a little on Reiko, who I normally love. Though Reiko still maintained a lot of her fierce independence, which I admire since she's going against the grain of society. Maybe another reason I didn't like this one as much as some of the other Sano books was the lack of Yanagisawa. When he's not around, things are a little les ...more
Oct 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another incredible read! This one had me at the edge of my seat as I galloped through the last ten chapters. The relationship between my favorite samurai and his wife was tested in this installment of the Sano Ichiro series by Laura Joh Rowland. Between that conflict and the creepy mysteriousness of the Black Lotus sect that the story revolved around, 2am bedtimes were the norm while I tried desperately to find pockets of time to read in an already full schedule. Ms. Rowland's prose kept me goin ...more
Jan 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Samurai detective Sano (17th century China) is called to investigate a fire at the Black Lotus temple. He discovers the three victims of the fire were murdered before the fire, and a young nun discovered in the garden near the fire, Haru, is suspected. When she won't talk with his detectives, Sano enlists his wife, Reiko, to talk with the girl. She befriends the girl and discovers that Black Lotus is a cult lead by a charismatic priest Anraku, who is planning to take over the country. Reiko's de ...more
Mar 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I know I've been reading these out of order, but that's one of the things I like about the's not necessary to read them in order to understand them. Despite the character deaths, and what I felt may have been gratuitous sex, I enjoyed this one a little more than the other I read; it captured my attention and left me guessing which is something I want from a mystery book, even if I came to hate the book's central character (Not Sano, though he was conflicted for a good chunk of it).

Graham Crawford
Sep 21, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a mid-weight period murder mystery, I'd almost say a cosy murder, except the rape and torture scenes tip the book into something darker. The plot and characterisation are quite mechanical, but that might be a feature of this genre. There is some sense of period detail but the book didn't feel the history was deeply researched. The Edo culture was complex - alien to modern western eyes - and apart a few nods at the appalling oppression of women (and anyone not in the ruling Junta) - it di ...more
Sherelyn Ernst
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was ok
This was ok. I've read others by the same author and been quite interested, but although they are better than average and the historical information about ancient Japan is fascinating, she seems to have taken her plots and characterizations about as far as she can. Those aspects seem to be going down hill. If you haven't read any, they are worth trying.
May 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
At first I thought this would be a boring case for Sano Ichiro... but I was wrong. What started as a simple arson investigation developed into a thrilling hunt for truth. And the whole time I was worried that Reiko and Sano might break up - I just love the two of them together.

I just missed Yanagisawa... I hope he's back in the next book.
Dec 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
I'm sorry to say, I've read the last of these mysteries though I enjoyed the first two of the series a lot. For this reader this book, like The Concubine's Tatoo, continued to be too violent, sadistic, and sexually perverse. Not my cup of tea.
This was better than "The Concubine's Tattoo," not as good as "The Samurai's Wife." Again, Rowland has opted to include gratuitous sex scenes that do not enhance the mystery or story-telling, so once again I am unsure if I will finish the series.
Abigail (42stitches)
Sep 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulp
I don't normally like mystery books much, but shortly after I got into anime I acquired a taste for everything Japanese and picked this up for a long bus ride. In the usual tradition of who-dun-it but quirky and funny and chock full of Japanese culture, this is a fun read.
Pheng Khoon Tan
Oct 02, 2007 is currently reading it
Picked up this book over the weekend. Why this one? Well I haven't read a mystery novel for a while (hmm, can't remember how long, perhaps since the days of Hardy boys and Secret Seven). And I thought the setting of this story - feudal Japan - was refreshingly different.
Oct 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
What happens when Nick and Nora Charles become 17th century Japanese detectives. Did that sound believable? You see the problem. Combine this with a chop-socky ending, and it doesn't get better. To be fair, this is the only one of the series I have read. Or am likely to.
Serge Pierro
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Rowland keeps the series moving along and enjoyable. The characters are being developed, and she does an admirable job in bringing the world to life. Fans of the CCG "Legend of the Five Rings" would enjoy this series.
Dec 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
This is the 6th book in the Sano Ichiro series.
Sep 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Michael Barnette
Aug 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mystery lovers or Japanophiles
Wow, just wow. This was yet another great offering in the Sano Ichiro series. Ms. Rowland never disappoints her readers with this series and I can't wait until I can purchase and read the rest.
Dec 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
As always, these books are much like Alexander McCall Smith's books - a lovely trip elsewhere, w/great understanding of human nature.
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Holy crap! What a landmine in the series! A great read addition to the Sano books. Just don't skip this one as it's a major piece to the next few books.
Sep 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Mystery Lovers
Shelves: asian
Another feudal Japan murder mystery, this one based around a cult called The Black Lotus.
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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)
  • 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)