The Way of the Traitor Hardcover – 3 Jul 1997
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Like Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, Rowland's novel is an excellent whodunit. (Booklist) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Crime, murder and treason in the third thrilling mystery set in feudal Japan featuring Sano Ichiro, samurai detective. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Rowland's plot is quite good. Sano has found himself essentially exiled from Edo by his unintended rival the Shogun's Chamberlin. He is given the task of "inspecting" Nagasaki which is just about as far from Edo as you can go and still be in Japan. Given the state of transportation systems in Japan during the Shogunate, it is possible the chamberlain was hoping Sano wouldn't survive the journey.
Nagasaki is Japan's window to the world and it is tightly guraded and only open a crack. The only authorized westerners in Japan are the Dutch and the are kept on a small man-made island in the harbor. Origianlly the concession was given to the Portugese who along with trade brough Christianity and this ultimately lead to the banning of Christian teachings, the expulsion of the Portugese and the persecution of Japanese Christians. The Dutch have filled the void left by the departed Portugese becasue they aren't interested in spreading the gospel, just@making profits on their investments. They can't leave the island unescorted and no Japanese can enter except on official business. To even go on the island one is required to take and oath against Christianity and desecrate Christian icons. The penalty for not adhering to the oath is severe - death.
Sano's arival coincides with the disappearance of one of the Dutch trading mission from the island. It is this investigation which Sano finds himself involved with that almost cost Sano his life in several different ways.
The plot is well set out. The are a large number of potential suspects ranging from@the surviving Dutch traders to a Chinese religious leader to corrupt local officals. It is not an easy trail for Sano to follow and Rowland makes the sidetracks and false leads quite intriguing. The conclusion to the investigation is excellently done.
I have read this book several times and have found it just as entertaining now as when I first got it. Now reading it in Nagasaki it is almost like being in a time warp. Looking at the Nagasaki of today, it is easy to not see the houses clustering on the hills around the city and to see it as it was in the late 17th Century. It is a hot, humid and foggy night as I sit here writing - just the right conditions for a stranger to the city to look for a murderer who might be any one of a number of people.
Rowland is an exceptional story teller. She
weaves an exceptional tale of the very narrow meeting point between Japan and the rest of the world. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes history interlaced with their fiction.
The story takes place a year-and-a-half after Bundori. Sano has not yet married, still mourning the loss of his love. He has also found that there is little he can do to change the corrupt administration of the government and is despondent about the corruption. Strangely enough, Hirata, Sano's chief retainer, is despondent over his service to Sano as he does not seem to want to be protected and takes unnecessary risks. If Way of the Traitor does anything, it solidifies the relationship between Sano and Hirata, setting up their companionship for the later books.
Sano is sent to Nagasaki where he has to unravel the mystery behind the murder of the head of the Dutch East India Company. As the story progresses, the stakes increase, and Sano takes more risks, putting his life and reputation at stake. Through the course of the story, he uncovers corruption in the administration of Nagasaki, develops camaraderie with the Dutch doctor and is convicted of treason himself.
In the end, Sano lives, and he returns to Edo (the series would be very different if he did not). However, it is the lessons he learns that makes the story important in the development of the character. For that is the purpose of the book in the overall series, developing Sano to deal with the challenges in the later books.
Now my complaint is since the story takes place in Nagasaki, I have the feeling that I will not see most of these characters ever again. As such, the politics were less pressing. I like the world Rowland is developing, and Nagasaki is on the edge of this world. Now, I hope I am wrong, but I will not know until I push farther into series.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has read the previous ones. I am less likely to recommend this book on its own since it builds so much upon the events of Bundori.