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Official Synopsis Edit
"It is January 1689 in Edo, the city that would one day become Tokyo. The bodies of a beautiful noblewoman and a male commoner, bound together, are dragged from the murky Sumida River: a typical shinju, a ritual double suicide committed by a pair of star-crossed lovers. But when Sano Ichiro, a teacher, samurai, and reluctant police officer, begins a routine investigation, he comes to suspect murder. Disobeying direct orders to close the case discreetly, he pursues elusive answers from the ornate mansions of the highest born daimyos, to the gaudy pleasure quarters of the lowest classes, from a cloistered mountaintop convent to a horrid prison where death is a blessing. He risks his family's good name and his own life to solve a crime that nobody wants solved. As he unravels the twisted story behind the deaths, he stumbles upon a trail of deceit and assassination that threatens the very underpinnings of the shogun's Japan."
"To my parents, Lena and Raymond Joh"
"I would like to thank the following people, each of whom helped make this book possible: George Alec Effinger, friend, mentor, and master science fiction writer. My agent, Peter Grey Ahearn; my editor, David Rosenthal; my husband, Marty Rowland. And the members of my writer's workshop: Larry Barbe, Cary Bruton, Kim Campbell, O'Neil DeNoux, Debbie Hodgkinson, Jack Jernigan, Micheal Keane, Mark McCandless, Marian Moore, John Webre, and Fritz Ziegler."
- For a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, see Shinjū/Plot.
After investigating a fire in Nihonbashi, Yoriki Sano Ichirō receives a summons from Magistrate Ogyu. The Magistrate offers him a job: a peasant man named Noriyoshi and high-class woman named Niu Yukiko were found dead, their bodies tied together in the usual style of a lover's suicide. Because of the dead woman's status, the matter must be handled with swiftly and quietly. However, Sano's instincts tell him that there is more to this case than the Magistrate is telling him. Despite what might happen to him for defying orders, Sano begins to investigate the case himself.
He begins by going to Edo Jail to inspect the bodies. He meets Ito Genboku and his assistant, Mura. Yukiko's corpse has already been given her family for funeral preparations, but Noriyoshi's body is still at the morgue. An autopsy reveals bruises and no water in his lungs, indicating that he did not drown and was actually beaten to death. Sano suspects that this is also the case with Yukiko.
The next day, Sano visits the Nius, ostensibly to pay his respects. He questions Lady Niu, her bodygaurd Eii, and her son Masahito, but does not learn anything useful from them and even subtly gives away that he is investigating her death. Before leaving the estate, one of Yukiko's sisters, Midori, tells him that Yukiko was not the type of person that Lady Niu had described: overly romantic and influenced by the theater. While she does not have any proof, Midori is insistent about Yukiko being murdered. However, before Sano can ask Midori more questions, Lady Niu shows up and forces Sano to leave.
Even though Midori declared that Yukiko's death was not suicide, the young woman is not too sure herself. The only thing that makes Midori suspicous is the fact that Yukiko had been acting differently than usual before her death. In order to see what was going through her sister's head, Midori goes into Yukiko's bedchamber and finds some of her dairies, hoping that they will tell her something. And they do; apparently, she learned some horrible secret that she could not repeat but she still felt compelled to tell someone about. Before Midori can figure out what her sister meant, Lady Niu catches Midori and forcibly removes her from the room.
Meanwhile, Sano goes to Yoshiwara in search of the Okubata Fine Arts Company, the place where Noriyoshi lived and worked. He meets Okubata, the owner of the company, and interrogates the man. While Okubata's body language gives away his lies, Sano does not force the man to reveal what he knows. During the interrogation, Sano learns the names of a few of Noriyoshi's friends and that the man had no living relatives.
Upon searching Noriyoshi's room, he finds out the man was a shunga artist who happened to own a large amount of money that his profession would not have helped him earn. Okubata takes the money and tries to write it off as profit from the shunga, but Sano can easily tell that Okubata is lying once again.
While Sano interviews the rest of the staff, Okubata gets into a heated conversation with Healing Hands, an elderly blind masseur. After finishing the interviews, Sano goes to Okubata and meets Healing Hands who tells Sano about another one of Noriyoshi's friends, one that Okubata did not want to mention: a women by the name of Wisteria who works at a pleasure house called the Palace of the Heavenly Garden. Okubata warns Healing Hands not to say anymore which the masseur takes to heart.
More to be added...
Character Appearances Edit
- Sano Ichirō
- Magistrate Ogyu
- Blacksmith Goro
- Sano's father
- Sano Etsuko
- Tokugawa Tsunayoshi
- Lady Niu
- Niu Midori
- Niu Yukiko
- Ito Genboku
- Niu Masamune
- Hamada Tsunehiko
- Hachiya Akira
- Niu Keiko
- Niu Masahito
- Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu
- Okubata/Cherry Eater
- Healing Hands
- Lady Wisteria
- Aoki Koemon
- Katsuragawa Shundai
- Ikeda Akiko
Character Deaths Edit
Cover Variations Edit
- The blurb on the back of the HarperCollins print seems to confuse the term yoriki with the term sosakan. "...newly appointed yoriki Sano Ichirō. ... Despite the official verdict and warnings from his superiors, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People suspects..." This implies that Sano is the shogun's sosakan. This doesn't become true until the last chapter of the book.
- In France, Shinju is published under the title Le sabre et la dague (roughly, "The Sword and the Dagger").