From the back cover of the Advance Readers Edition:
One afternoon Bob Lee Swagger gets a surprising visitor: a retired Japanese Colonel named Philip Yaho has researched the battles on Iwo Jima and believes Swagger’s father killed his on Mount Suribachi. He is also searching for the miitary sword his father used in the battle. Swagger manages to track it down and personally delivers it to Yano in Tokyo. When they examine it, it turns out to be not an old standard issue military weapon, but an ancient samurai sword, a national treasure. A few days later, the Yano family is murdered, their house burned to the ground, and the sword stolen. Compelled to solve the crime and recover the blade, Swagger enters not only Tokyo’s criminal underbelly, but also the violent, obsessive world of the Samurai.
Booklist is a magazine of book reviews published by the American Library Association. It is the holy grail of book reviews. The July 1 edition included a review of The 47th Samurai with a star, denoting “a work judged to be outstanding in its genre”:
This is the novel Hunter’s fans have been waiting for, the book that brings together his father-and-son protagonists: Earl Swagger, World War II hero and hard-nosed cop, and Bob Lee Swagger, Vietnam sniper and, like his father, the kind of guy who can’t say no to righteous violence. Until now, Earl and Bob have each starred in their own books, but this time, ingeniously, Hunter brings them together when Bob is contacted by a retired Japanese soldier, Philip Yano, who believes that his father’s samurai sword may have wound up in Earl’s hands after the war. Bob tracks down the sword, travels to Japan, and presents it to Yano—after which the Yano family is slaughtered. Bob could walk away, but, of course, he doesn’t.
Throwing himself into samurai culture, he learns swordsmanship from a master and sets off to avenge the Yanos—and, in a sense, his father. Sure, this sounds clichéd, but much of Hunter’s genius comes from his ability to manipulate archetypes—especially the classic western scenario of the lone avenger—drawing on the almost subconscious pull these themes exert on the reader but always infusing them with multiple layers of complexity. As Bob is drawn into the samurai world, and tension builds to the inevitable confrontation with his adversary—a modern samurai seduced by the dark side—Hunter simultaneously fuels our need for bloody resolution and reveals the horrors wrought by devotion to honor and duty. But this time he does it with parallel narratives—juxtaposing the story of Earl Swagger and Philip Yano’s father against the contemporary drama and playing off the same themes across generations.
This is probably Hunter’s most violent novel—and that’s saying something—but violence may have never been more integral to story than it is here. Hunter celebrates the samurai soldier while showing the appalling underside of the samurai way of life and the ideals that drive it.
— Bill Ott