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By I. J. PARKER
Penguin, February 2006
Trade paperback format ($13.00)
Reviewed by Cherie Jung
Set in eleventh-century Japan, this is the first book published in a series of historical mysteries featuring Sugawara Akitada, a nobleman and minor government official. (Hint: 11th-century Japan means this is not a tale of Samurai fighting across the countryside, so don't expect any.)
Blackmail is the possible crime Akitada sets out to uncover in this assignment. He takes a temporary position as teacher at Imperial University in order to search out the culprit responsible for the blackmail. Naturally the investigation becomes a bit more complicated when a murder occurs.
Parker first introduced Akitada in a short story called "Akitada's First Case." The story won the prestigious Shamus award. In RASHOMON GATE Akitada returns, as does his elderly bookkeeper/servant Seimei. (Seimei is my favorite character in the series...) and Tora, the bodyguard/servant who is third main character in the series.
The story is a bit long and a bit slow in places, but that's to be expected in a first novel isn't it? Especially an historical novel. Authors have done all that research and have tons of information and they want to use it. Not to worry, the author has kindly supplied a list of names for the Japanese characters, so the reader can quickly sort out who's who.
I enjoy the mix of political, religious, and historical aspects to the story and I look forward to more cases for Akitada, Seimei, and Tora.
Other titles in this series include: THE DRAGON SCROLL and THE HELL SCREEN.
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