""The sights, sounds and smells of medieval Japan are all there." "
It is 1033, in the last years of the Heian period of Japanese history, and Sugawara Akitada is the governor of Mikawa Province. He is a troubled man, because the Imperial Court in Kyoto is sending an official from the Censor's Bureau to investigate a claim that he improperly performs his duties. Not only that, his marriage is in trouble and his second wife, Yukiko, has left him to take up a position in the court in Kyoto.
Then a corpse is discovered on the beach, and on its arm is a tattoo that links it to the powerful Matsudaira family. If this isn't enough, the body of a young woman is also discovered, lying in a rice field. She is Lady Hiroki, daughter of the head of another powerful family, the Imagawas. Akitawa and his faithful retainer and friend Tora, investigate the murders, and are drawn into the murky world of powerful overlords, haughty families and murky brothels. Along the way there are intriguing questions that must be answered. How is the island known as the Island of the Gods involved in all of this? Is it a pirates' lair? Where is Lady Hiroki's maidservant Otoki? She was with Horiko on the night of the murder, and now she has disappeared. And what part does Tojo, who runs a gang of highwaymen, play in all of this?