Warning - spoiler for The Shogun's Daughter
There's something bittersweet about reading the last book in a series. Laura Joh Rowland published The Iris Fan four years ago, but because I fell behind, I've known for three books that she was winding up the Sano Ichiro mysteries. Four years after The Shogun's Daughter, Sano has been demoted, Masihiro has no hope of a decent marriage or advancement through the Samauri ranks, and the family is living in cramped and straightened circumstances with Midori and her children (Hirata, still mired in his supernatural subplot, is missing). He's hunting for evidence that Ienobu ordered Yoshisato's death while Yanigasawa is looking for evidence that his son is still alive. The enemies and their quests collide when someone stabs Shogun Tokugawa (bedridden with measles), with an iris-decorated fan.
Sano's investigation leads to the women's quarters of the palace. In prior cases, his wife Reiko helped him with these interviews but four years after her stillbirth, his devotion to the Samauri code and her lingering postpartum depression have driven them apart. The case piques her interest, though, and reluctantly at first, she begins to investigate. With help from a surprising person and both personal and professional roadblocks thrown up by Yanigasawa, Sano solves the case and achieves the happy (or at least bittersweet) ending that a reader expects from the final installment in a long-running series. One warning, though. The Sano books have always been a bit dark, and there's one scene in The Shogun's Daughter, where a beautiful but intellectually disabled young woman mentions her "special friends" that's particularly disturbing.