I picked this one up because I knew I was going to enjoy it, I mean, it’s a Daidoji Shin novel it was going to be a lot of fun. And I wanted something fun after the bad brain days I’ve had recently. This one is thanks to the nice folks at Aconyte Books. Here’s Josh Reynolds’ The Flower Path. Enjoy!

The Flower Path cover

After months of work the Foxfire Theater is set to re-open and Daidoji Shin has put forth every effort and spared no expense to see that it will be a successful opening night. The play is a crowd pleaser. The Three Flowers Troupe is at its best. And a new lead actress, Noma Etsuko, has been brought in. But Shin cannot avoid a mystery even when he pursues other interests and mid play the lead actress has an attack. Despite quick reactions all around, she dies back stage. Her killer is somewhere in the Foxfire Theater either among the common folk and the theater’s own crew or among the nobles there to be seen. If Shin cannot figure out who killed her and how before the play ends justice will never be found, and Etsuko did not make a great many friends among her fellows.

Josh Reynolds The Flower Path is an excellent novel that does a fantastic job of bringing back previously introduced characters as well as introducing new ones. I greatly enjoyed the return to the Foxfire theater and the Three Flowers Troupe, the descriptions of the backstage chaos and the interactions between the actors and the stage crew felt good. The drama of this actress having pull over so many nobles to the point that they had all come to the theater to see her, only for her to die and leave them all as suspects was a delight.

The new Unicorn noble, Shinjo Yasamura, feels like someone who should be important later on, if only because of how he complicates things between Shin and Iuchi Konomi and how he plays off Shin as someone equally smart but rooted in very different ideas. Plus, I just like how conflicted Shin was by the attractive man who said he was attending the play to meet Shin not actually being there for him and their weird noble not quite flirting.

Kasami is, as ever, a delight. She did not get quite as much page space as usual, but remains a solid contrasting voice to Shin. Seeing her interacting with people, from other bodyguards to some of the actors and stage crew was a delight. Her whole staunchly lawful nature feels humorous when played against one of the noble’s bodyguard, Arban Ujik, who doesn’t much care about social rules and the actress, Chika, who would very much like to interact with her more, especially when both seem to want to get into her robes and seem mutually aware of this. There remains something nicely solid about Kasami, she doesn’t understand why Shin does what he does and only vaguely approves of some of it and only then when it seems like he’s becoming more of a proper noble, but she stands by him all the same and wants the best for him. It’s good to see.

The case itself is also fascinating. The details layer over each other, building various possible cases, casting aside and pulling back in different suspects, but never quite adding up entirely. So many characters have reason to resent Etsuko, to want her out of the way, but none of them quite fit the means or method right. Many of them have reason to resent her, but more reason not to act on it. It’s a solid mystery that leads to a conclusion that fits nicely with the world and what both Shin and the reader learn along the way. There were so many good red herrings and so much room for different characters to interact differently, with people opening up to Daichi, Shin’s manservant, in ways they could and would not to Shin himself or Kasami. It allows for how information is gathered to be delightfully situational and feels like a nice bit of world building.

The Flower Path leaves me grasping for the next Daidoji Shin novel. It’s as good as Poison River if not better and does a good job of showing Shin thinking on his feet and dealing with having to keep the closed box closed while he investigates. It earns a five out of five from me and a very impatient wait for the next one.