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I first picked up one of Laura Joh Rowland's novels in a bookstore in Amsterdam. marypcb and I had gone over to meet up with rowanf, and we'd been talking (as we often do) about books. I can't remember if rowanf actually recommended this series to me, but I like to think she did...

Bundori is the second novel in the series, set some time after Sano Ichiro has entered the Shogun's service in Edo. As chief investigator, his role is to solve disturbing and unusual crimes, however his rapid rise and obvious integrity have offended the Shogun's chamberlain Yanagisawa, and his position is nowhere near as secure as he thinks. But now a serial killer is stalking the streets of Edo, mounting his victims' heads in the traditional manner as "bundori": traditional samurai war trophies. It's a tricky mystery to solve, as in Yanagisawa our hero has a powerful enemy, who will stop at nothing to destroy any man he considers a rival.

The hunt for the killer takes us around the winding streets of Edo, and introduces several characters who will be additional members of Rowland's cast in future novels. These include Sano's future wife, and the man who will become the Lewis to his Morse. We also get to see events that shape Sano's character, events that will echo down the series. As you can tell from these reviews, I've not been reading them in any particular order, as for one thing they've been quite hard to find here in the UK, but it's good to see that they do work well as standalone stories - often a failing with long running series in any genre.

This is a complex and engaging mystery, with a powerful and dramatic resolution. An interesting episode in the life of a well-constructed hero in what is a very alien land to 21st century westerners.