From Publishers Weekly
Of noble family but of minor importance, 11th-century Japanese sleuth Sugawara Akitada serves as a clerk in the Ministry of Justice in this solid debut, which follows the success of Parker's Shamus-winning short story, "Akitada's First Case." A request from Hirata, a law professor and his old mentor at the Imperial University in Heian Kyo (modern-day Kyoto), results in Akitada becoming a temporary teacher there. Ostensibly, Hirata is concerned with what appears to be a blackmailer at the already struggling university such a scandal might well be a deathblow. But Hirata also has in mind a possible match between his daughter, Tamako, and Akitada, who in addition becomes involved in the disappearance of a student's grandfather. Lord Minamoto, a young student consigned to the school, believes his grandfather was murdered, but the emperor has ruled the disappearance a miracle, so Akitada must move carefully. Parker has neatly blended familiar and esoteric Japanese history, religion, culture and superstition with a well-paced plot to create an appealing historical mystery. Amusingly, the Imperial University seems not too different from today's institutions, with uncertain governmental support, jealousies and bickering among the faculty, as well as impecunious students striving to make ends meet. Akitada, impetuous, passionate and intelligent, is aided by a scampish servant, Tora, and an elderly, resourceful retainer, Seimei. Readers should welcome further tales about the trio. 10 b&w illus.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Parker brings back the protagonist from his Shamus Award-winning short story to star in this debut novel, set in eleventh-century Japan. Akitada Sugawara, an earnest young nobleman with a reputation for solving crimes, is approached by his former professor and mentor, who is concerned about possible blackmail at Imperial University. Akitada agrees to take a temporary teaching position in order to find the rotten apple among the faculty, but he soon finds himself investigating not only the blackmail but also the murder of a young woman, the subsequent murder of a professor, and the mysterious death of a prince whose grandson is one of Akitada's students. He is also wondering why the love of his life has inexplicably refused his offer of marriage. The story moves slowly and seems overlong--maybe Parker could have saved a few of these mysteries for Akitada's next appearance--but the characters feel genuine, as does the unusual setting. Notes following the text attest to the historical accuracy of this atmospheric tale. Carrie Bissey
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