The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
Samurai Detective #1
Publisher: Puffin Books
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery/Thriller, Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Poinsettia

While attempting to solve the mystery of a stolen jewel, Seikei, a merchant’s son who longs to be a samurai, joins a group of kabuki actors in eighteenth-century Japan.

One night in the Tokaido Inn will change Seikei’s life forever.
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I recommend this book for the young adult age group if they are reading this tale on their own for a couple of reasons. First, there is quite a bit of discussion about seppuku. This is when a samurai commits suicide rather than suffer dishonor. This is significant and essential to understanding Japanese culture, but it is a heavy topic. I believe the book can be read aloud to younger children, but again I would recommend plenty of discussion on what seppuku is and why it was viewed positively in Japanese culture during this period in history. Second, there is also some gore surrounding a death near the conclusion of the book. It isn’t overdone, but there is enough detail that younger readers might be sensitive to that material.

Seikei is a very likable boy. He’s smart, curious, and honest. He tries to live his life according to the samurai ideals. In fact, he dreams of being a samurai, but as the son of a merchant he knows he can never be one. His future is already laid out for him, or so it seems. Everything changes when Seikei witnesses the crime at the inn. Seikei soon finds himself working side by side with the samurai magistrate, Judge Ooka. Not only will Seikei help solve the crime, but he’ll also have the opportunity to learn more about the ways of the samurai. For Seikei it is the experience of a lifetime. His excitement is palpable, and I admired his fierce determination to do his best. However, can Seikei ever go back to the life of a merchant after tasting the life of a samurai?

It becomes apparent about midway through the book who the thief is, but the motive remains a mystery. It soon becomes clear that there is much more to the thief’s plan than the theft of a jewel. As Seikei digs for the truth, he uncovers a plot that has been years in the making. As I raced through the pages, I found myself asking if the thief was indeed the true villain!

There is a lot of historic detail packed into this exciting mystery! Japanese customs, etiquette, class structure, religious views, etc are all explained within the context of the story. As a result, the pacing never suffers. It is all simply part of Seikei’s life. This is can spur some great discussion on Japanese class structure in the 1700’s under the rule of the shoguns, and dare I say, make learning about history fun!

I had a lot of fun reading The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn. Seikei is a likable character, the mystery is compelling, and the conclusion is gripping. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery with a good dose of historic detail!

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