Posted: September 5, 2011 in Novels

“Contemplation on the nine stages of a decaying corpse”

Over two hundred years ago, in Shogunate Japan, a daimyo’s journey to Edo is halted by a slow-moving monk. With a flash of anger, a blade removes the man’s head. To the shock of the daimyo and his samurai, the monk picks up his head and walks onwards.

In modern Tokyo, Detective Hanaka Shimizu is called to a crime-scene in Ueno Park.  She finds that a corpse has been discovered, a woman, wrapped in a kimono with one breast exposed. The woman is unknown, possibly a prostitute, and languishes in the morgue while Shimizu makes inquiries.

Back in Edo, the daimyo is obsessed with the power of the resurrected  monk, and orders him to his mansion.  The monk Obuku explains the spiritual power of the Kusokan, contemplation of the stages of decay, illustrated with macabre detail in the Kusozu series of silk-paintings, printed by the talented and illegitimate son of mirror-maker Nakajima. The daimyo orders the killing and assembly of corpses, to match the nine silk-paintings.

And, in modern-day Tokyo, there is another killing, another corpse. This time, the body is bloated, on the cusp of putrefaction….

What dark secret will Shimizu discover, reaching back over two hundred and fifty years? Who is the figure in white following her? What will happen when the nine corpses are finally assembled? Can she discover the secret and stop it?

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