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Rashomon Gate: A Mystery of Ancient Japan Hardcover – July 31, 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 73 customer reviews
Book 2 of 14 in the Akitada Mysteries Series

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur; 1st edition (July 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312287984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312287986
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 11.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,165,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 18, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When it comes to Japanese detective stories tailored for Western readers, Laura Joh Rowland leaps to mind. Here stories of Sano Ichiro, set during the 17th Century Shogunate have become a staple of what is admittedly, a niche genre. Now a new writer, I. J. Parker has appeared (her short story, "Akitada's First Case," was published in 1999. and promptly won a Shamus award). Parker's stories feature Sagawara Akitada, a low ranking noble in the service the Emperor in Heian Kyo (Kyoto). The time is 600 years earlier than Rowland's books, and the culture immensely different. Japan was still heavily influenced by all things Chinese, and still forming its own social and political architectures.
As Parker ably demonstrates in Akitada's first adventure, there was nothing primitive about the Heian period, regardless of its antiquity. Akitada, whose career in the Japanese bureaucracy has come to a standstill, accepts a request from an old mentor to come to the University as an instructor while investigating an attempt at blackmail. Akitada and his servant, Tora, find themselves enmeshed in a web of plots including the murder (or transcendence) of a prince of the realm, the strangling of a joy house musician, and a series of deaths at the University itself.
Both Akitada and Tora have their own romantic interests, which are fleshed out by Parker's careful sense of detail and character development. There are countless things that can be gotten wrong in historical fiction of this sort, but Parker manages to avoid all but trivial errors. Partially because she does not delve into the politics of the times the way Rowland does. Akitada is not a 'player' in the same class as Sano Ichiro. His frustrated ambition keeps him on the outer edges of polite society.
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Format: Hardcover
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.

Harriet Klausner
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Format: Hardcover
I.J. Parker takes readers back in time with her debut novel, "Rashomon Gate," a tightly-wound mystery taking place in 11th-century Japan. With likable characters and plenty of different plot threads, Parker does an excellent job of making Heian-era Japan come alive.
Minor bureaucrat Sugawara Akitada gets a request from his former teacher/foster father, Professor Hirata. Hirata reveals that someone in the university faculty is blackmailing someone else. So Akitada takes a job as a teacher at the university, and begins to investigate the possible motives and criminals. But then a body shows up -- a young pregnant girl with ties to people at the university.
Soon Akitada uncovers a sinister web of corruption, blackmail, and suicide from the year before. Then another body shows up -- an antisocial poetry professor, whose half-naked body is hung from a statue of Confucius. Now Akitada must sort out different crimes -- the dead professor, the pregnant girl, and a vanished elderly prince -- but finds that he may be the next victim...
Parker's debut is a polished one -- she manages to juggle a bunch of interconnected plot threads without dropping any of them. And without being too obvious about it, she gives a strong feel for the culture, hierarchies, complexity and accomplishments of Heian-era Japan.
Parker's writing is solid and descriptive, with some light moments sprinkled through the book. Her dialogue is a bit too "modern American," but not so much that it makes the book seem unrealistic. She includes some humor from sidekick Tora and his fact-finding missions (which usually involve lots of booze), and a bit of romance when Akitada desperately tries to woo Hirata's beautiful daughter.
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