The plot was good, and I admit I was wondering what in the world Yanagisawa is upto as he's always constantly plotting and neverending in his plot to get rid of Sano. Although it is getting somewhat stale and repetitive for the last several books and I'm wondering if there's anything new to this. At least the mystery case is new and different from previous cases. It's the same format, with Sano dealing with personal issues while trying to solve the case at the same time. It surprised me that this time the shogun did not threaten with his usual death threat when Sano wasn't doing his job "right". However, lo and behold, the shogun threatens him later in the book (which induced eye rolling on my part, as it is tending to get extremely formulaic by now).
However, I still enjoy reading the well written historical descriptions of feudal Japan and its social mores and customs. It is interesting to read and I could picture the setting clearly in my head while reading. This is what I like the most about reading these books. The political intrigue was still there and I used to like reading about it in the past, this time however it was subtle and I kept on guessing what was going to happen. It was a nice little surprise once I read Yanagisawa's vile little plot (and here I thought he couldn't get any worse).
Regarding the mystery, it was all right to read. Although it wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. The suspects weren't that great to begin with, and I felt myself not really guessing who was the perpetrator. There wasn't much to it and when it was solved, there was a great big climax which I did enjoy reading as I did sympathize with these women who were violated and then horribly ostracized and treated as if they were the ones at fault by their own families and friends. It offered them closure, and it was a good way of ending the mystery. The political intrigue however just got started and just got really interesting however, it was at the end of the novel and I was stuck pulling my hair as to what was going to happen now to Sano and his family.
What really annoys me in this series lately is Hirata. I'm not into this mystic martial arts thing and it all makes him sound like he's superman. However I find that he doesn't do much with the plot and only continues to be annoying with using his powers. Although the introduction of the "mystery ninja" who's stalking Hirata got my interest, it wasn't enough to make me accept this mystic martial arts plot. I still prefer the "old" Hirata before he became a martial arts master.
Overall, a long time fan isn't missing much in terms of mystery but the political intrigue packs a huge punch at the end. I'd say read it just because you've probably read the previous 13 books before. Those new to Sano Ichiro may or may not like this one however if you ask me, try reading The Concubine's Tattoo (which is my personal favorite).