Bundori is an intriguing mystery thriller penned by Laura Joh Rowland, and the sequel to Shinju. The story takes place in Edo (now known as Tokyo), Japan in 1689, and centers around a murder investigation involving much more than simply murder. The "Bundori Killer" decapitates his victims and mounts their heads as war trophies for... what? And why? ("Bundori" means "war trophy" in Japanese.)
The rather difficult task of answering these questions falls to Sano Ichiro, the shogun's sosakan-sama (Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People). Already a daunting case, Sano's job is made much more difficult by the interference of the second most powerful man in Japan, Chamberlain Yanagisawa. Yanagisawa is jealous of Sano because he saved the shogun's life and feels that he is a threat to his own power. Another unexpected element is thrown into the mix in the form of a female ninja disguised as a shrine maiden working for Yanagisawa against her will. He orders her to sabotage Sano's investigation, but... let's just say things don't go quite as smoothly as Yanagisawa could have hoped for.
As the mystery unfolds, the story and characters only grow more intriguing. As the real murderer isn't revealed until the very end, it makes for a very suspenseful read. Being a fan of pretty much all things Japanese, the frequent use of Japanese terms, greetings, and such was a big turn on. It also provided an interesting look at 17th Century Japanese culture, and the mind frame of the people that made up that culture. The story was crafted beautifully and executed in a very believable manner. Bundori is one of those books that draws you in and keeps you hooked until the very end.
I would gladly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, but also to anyone who enjoys Japanese culture. Reading Shinju is not necessary to understand and enjoy Bundori, but will give you a better understanding of Sano's character and the events that got him where he is. If you're in the mood for a good mystery thriller with a dash of romance and political intrigue (well, maybe more than a dash of the latter) thrown in, then Bundori is the book you've been looking for!