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ARC Review: The Flower Path A Daidoji Shin Mystery by Josh Reynolds

The Flower Path sees the return of extraordinary (amateur) detective Daidoji Shin in one of his most difficult cases yet. A locked-room murder mystery in his very own Foxfire theatre!

There is a lot to worry about on opening night of the Foxfire Theatre, although Daidoji Shin has no doubt it will be a huge success, being a theatre impresario is bound to be much easier than an amateur detective. The City of the Rich Frog’s leading lights are all there, but even as the performance begins, the Three Flower Troupe’s new lead actress is found dead backstage. Not what Daidoji Shin had in mind for opening night and worst everyone in the venue is now a potential suspect. It becomes a race against time as Shin is painfully aware he only has until the curtain falls to find the killer. The clock is ticking and the Crane can only hope to hold the great and the good hostage so long. As the night and play wears on, the chance of the murderer escaping justice grows ever more likely but not if Shin can help it.

Once again the Aconyte team (authors included) have done an amazing job at bringing a trading card game and roleplaying game to life. For those unfamiliar the Legend of the Five Rings is set in a detailed fantastical land of Rokugan, a nation whose culture and history is based on that of feudal Japan. Sometimes the settings will briefly cover other cultures that occupy the same world. Generally you can expect to find Samurai, Ronin, Courtiers, Clans and working classes such as merchants. The complexity of the land and world of Legend of the Five rings has already been beautifully brought to vivid life by Aconyte in numerous other titles but I have to say I am always happy to see Shin return, even if he is a Crane!

You may be forgiven for thinking that because the mystery is set in one place the action or story may drag but I can assure you this is not the case at all. Indeed it all adds perfectly to the tension and suspense that Reynolds masterfully creates. We have a plethora of interesting and witty characters each with their own agendas and motivation but also skilled at keeping those hidden. I honestly felt like I was transported right into the heart of the court and clan dynamics and all the intrigue and espionage that goes on.

We begin by learning that the new lead actress, Etsuko, is not planning to make any friends in The Three Flower troupe, she has in particular made an enemy of Nao. Of course we would be forgiven for thinking this was case closed and indeed it would be easy for Shin to blame Nao and be done but that is not his way. What follows is a lively and intriguing look into court politics and past dalliances of several individuals. While the subject matter is dire, a murder on opening night and the tension does not give up Reynolds manages to break the tension with memorable characters and wonderful interactions. I never thought I could love a Crane but it is hard not to like Shin. His easy going manner and way of using his skills to find the answers make it difficult to find a flaw, past, perhaps his flirtations. Add to this Kasami’s sharp wit and skills and it is near impossible to not love this duo – maybe a little too much in my case!

I honestly think this is my favourite Shin mystery to date, although I am hopeful there will be many more. I enjoyed learning the answer to the mystery as it went. I adored the characters and the way each is brought to life on the page. I even felt sympathy for a Scorpion due to Reynolds amazing skills. On top of this the novel contains all those trademarks that have made Aconyte one of my favourite publishers and some of my favourite authors. On top of bringing life to games and other tie-ins they are amazing at being inclusive in such a respectful and beautiful way.

I feel like I always say this for Aconyte titles but I cannot recommend this enough for fans of Legends of the Five Rings, historical fiction, fantasy lovers or murder and mystery lovers. You will not be disappointed, I promise you that!

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