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Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 06/01/1999 Gr 6-8A Sherlock Holmes-style mystery set in 18th-century Japan. Fourteen-year-old Seikei, son of a tea merchant, longs to be a samurai, although he knows that this is an inherited honor he can never hope to attain. While on a business trip, Seikei and his stern father take shelter at the Tokaido Inn where a cruel and oafish samurai, Lord Hakuseki, is also staying. A precious jewel is stolen from the lord, and a young girl whom Seikei has just met is accused of the theft. He risks his life by speaking out to defend her and Judge Ooka, called in to solve the crime, is taken with the boys bravery and enlists his help to solve the mystery. This sets Seikei onto a dangerous path where he goes backstage at Kabuki theaters, meets an enigmatic actor, and more than once must act in the honorable way of a samurai. He remains resourceful and courageous, although he often fears he may be on the wrong path. Judge Ooka maintains a steady presence, urging Seikei to observe, be logical, and reason out the motives for the crime. The plot builds towards an exciting, dramatic climax. All of the action is placed solidly in the context of the Tokugawa period of a Japan ruled by an emperor and a shogun, and pervaded by the need to defend ones honor above all else. An unusual and satisfying mystery that will be enjoyed by a wide audience. Bruce Anne Shook, Mendenhall Middle School, Greensboro, NC Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information. - Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Bulletin for the Center... - 09/01/1999 Set in eighteenth-century Japan, this is historical fiction with a suspenseful edge. Seikei, son of a tea merchant, longs to become a samurai, despite the fact that that aim is high above his station. On a business trip with his father to Edo, the Shogun’s city, Seikei meets samurai Lord Hakuseki, a coarse, unrefined man with more sense of self than sense of honor. When Lord Hakuseki is robbed of a priceless gem meant as a gift for the Shogun, legendary Judge Ooka is called in to investigate. Seikei becomes Ooka’s willing assistant in the investigation, and his inquiries lead him to a troupe of Kabuki players and the mysterious actor, Tomomi. The Hooblers recreate the setting of Japan under the Shogun, depicting the cultural and social hierarchy against a dramatic backdrop of theatrical and festival events. Precise characterization, suspenseful plot twists, and a pace defined by swift and sometimes violent action make this a lively period thriller. Readers will appreciate the clues discovered by the investigating Seikei, along with the strong foreshadowing that only makes the climax that much more resonant. By the conclusion, all that is hidden is revealed, honor is avenged, and Seikei achieves his impossible dream. Young adults will close this book with a sense of having finished a whopping good yarn. - Copyright 1999 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
Booklist - 06/01/1999 In eighteenth-century Japan, 14-year-old Seikei is a merchant's son with secret dreams of becoming a samurai. Although his status in society restricts him from doing anything more than following in his father's footsteps, Seikei has both the resolve and temperament of a wise, brave warrior. On a stopover at the Tokaido Inn, Seikei witnesses a legendary ghost stealing a jewel belonging to a samurai. His bravery in saving a falsely accused guest earns Seikei the respect of Judge Ooka, who hires Seikei to help him investigate the crime and solve the mystery. With a sharply authentic voice and an adeptly plotted story that progresses from the haunting ghost legend to the dark, volatile world of a traveling kabuki show, this mystery builds with stirring intrigue and plays out to a most satisfying conclusion. Rich with atmosphere and details that teach much of the Japanese culture, this is a fine selection for any YA collection. (Reviewed June 1 & 15, 1999) - Copyright 1999 Booklist.