St. Martin's, Jul 2002, 24.95, 352 pp.
In eleventh century Heian Kyo, Japan, Sugawara Akitada knows that he has attained his career ceiling in the Ministry of Justice as a minor bureaucrat. Clerking is simply boring, but that is what Akitada does now and he realizes will continue to do until he is retired. Having no permanent woman in his life except his disappointed mother, Akitada's only passion is solving crimes, a task that he actually has had success at solving.
Akitada's former law professor at the Imperial University asks his one time student to investigate an apparent blackmailing scheme that needs thwarting before it becomes public knowledge and damages the schools' reputation. Seeing a chance to escape the doldrums of his work, Akitada accepts the assignment. Pretending to be a newly appointed teaching assistant, Akitada begins his investigation into who his blackmailing a professor. However, a seemingly separate second case surfaces that places Akitada in danger from wrong doers with high level connections. On the other hand the obstinate Akitada finds romance too.
The key to enjoying this strong eleventh century Japanese mystery is the names that though add realism to the locale take a bit of adjusting by westerners so as to not lose track of who does what to whom. The story line is brimming with imagery that enables the audience to feel like a visitor to what was once Kyoto. Akitada is a fascinating character disenchanted with his present life with no hope for the future yet gives everything to solving his cases. I.J. Parker writes an appealing tale that showcases her talent to paint quite a picture for historical mystery fans to enjoy.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner