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 Published by Severn House 2011

NOTE:  This book has gone out of print.  A new print edition will be available soon.

Eleventh-century Japan: Eleventh-century Japan. The capital of Heian-Kyo is plagued by unexplained fires, and panic is threatening to break out, but government official Sugawara Akitada has his own problems to worry about. His ailing wife is expecting a child, and he loses his job to a political appointee. When he tries to confront the nobleman who is responsible for his dismissal, however, he ends up suspected of his murder.

With no income and a growing family to support, Akitada desperately plunges into the investigation of this crime, aided by his faithful servant Tora, inadvertently placing not only his own life, but also the lives of his wife and child, in grave danger . . .

 

Japan Times (Sunday, May 8, 2011) -  The Fires of the Gods  by I.J. Parker.
Severn House, Surry, 2011, 247 pp., $28.95, (hardcover)

By Mark Schreiber: "The Fires of the Gods," the eighth installment of I.J. Parker's saga of Heian Period official Sugawara Akitada, begins as a study in the abuses of power. The protagonist is removed from his position in the justice ministry by an incompetent appointee with connections to Kiyowara Kane, a powerful minister. Akitada, whose wife Tamako is expecting, can ill afford to lose his job. But when he goes to the official's mansion to ask that his dismissal be reconsidered, Kiyowara is found dead and Akitada who indeed had a motive for killing him falls under suspicion. This defines the rest of the plot as investigator Akitada finds himself obliged to prove his own innocence, all the while under the scrutiny of those who want to put him away. This situation severely tests Akitada's heretofore cordial relationship with Kobe, the Kyoto police superintendent who had collaborated with Akitada on several previous cases. In addition to Parker's usual cast of characters, including Akitada's outspoken wife Tamako, elderly retainer Seikei, feisty deputy Tora and Gemba, a hulking ex-wrestler, "The Fires of the Gods" introduces the dark side of the Kyoto underclass, characters who would have done justice to one of the old black-and-white Kurosawa epics, who range from venal clergymen and a gang of thugs running a protection racket to ruthless merchants determined to enrich themselves by the misfortunes of others. Akitada is not so much a detective as what traditional Asian literature terms a "righteous official." Those familiar with Robert van Gulik's still-popular "Judge Dee" series set in 8th century Tang Dynasty China (published in the 1950s and '60s) will enjoy Parker's works set in 11th century Heian Japan (794-1185), both for the similarities and the contrasts.
Publisher's Weekly - The Fires of the Gods: A Sugawara Akitada Mystery
I.J. Parker, Severn, $28.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7278-6989-0
Parker raises the stakes considerably for her fallible but honorable series sleuth in her excellent eighth mystery set in 11th-century Japan (after 2010's The Masuda Affair). Ministry of justice senior secretary Sugawara Akitada is already on edge with the impending birth of his second child, having lost his firstborn to illness, when he receives devastating professional news. As a result of interference by controller Kiyowara Kane, Akitada has been demoted to junior secretary, with his incompetent subordinate promoted to his old position. The outraged Akitada seeks an interview with Kane, only to be left waiting in the antechamber without getting an explanation for the slander campaign against him. To make matters worse, he soon comes under suspicion of murder, and he must disobey his superiors to solve the crime himself and clear his name. Parker masterfully blends action and detection while making the attitudes and customs of the period accessible. (Apr.)
 

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