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 In this, the third of the novels, Akitada begins his official assignment as provisional governor in one of the nationís northernmost provinces.  Since the government does not provide him with adequate funds, he and his pregnant young wife are accompanied only by his elderly secretary and three assistants, a pitiful force to contend with a lawless and hostile population, a treacherous warlord, empty granaries, and understaffed and dilapidated headquarters. The situation becomes more ominous when he learns that recent governors have either been killed or have fled for their lives.


Although the heavy snows of winter are about to cut them off from outside help, Akitada faces these odds, risking their lives as he tries to bring the province back under imperial control and to clear three innocent men who await execution in his jail.

Soon the situation deteriorates. His tribunal staff rebels, one of his assistants is nearly killed, an increase in murder is laid at his door, and the warlord mounts a military attack on the tribunal. In the end, the peaceable Akitada must take up arms and go to war against his enemies.

Publishers Weekly Review

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Shamus-winner Parker's fourth historical Sugawara Akitada novel (after 2006's Rashomon Gate) deftly combines an action-packed plot with convincing period detail to bring 11th-century Japan to life. When Akitada is dispatched to a remote northern province to serve as its provisional governor, he encounters fierce opposition from the local authorities, who have driven off previous emissaries from the capital in an effort to preserve their corrupt self-governance. The murder of a local innkeeper and the apparent effort to frame three travelers for the crime give Akitada an opening to exert some power by beginning his own independent investigation. Fans of quality traditional mysteries, as well as those with a special interest in Japan, will savor this outing and look forward to the next entry in the series. (Dec.)

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Kirkus Reviews

Akitada and his team (The Hell Screen, 2003, etc.) probe two mysteries in 11th-century Japan.

An elegant, oblique prologue set decades before the main action finds Death preying on a young woman and her frolicking baby in a flower-laden forest clearing. Then in 1015 a.d., the three lieutenants of Sugarawa Akitada - Tora, Hitomaro and Genba -journey to the remote province of Echigo and the town of Takata to look into the murder of elderly innkeeper Mr. Sato. Recently appointed governor of the remote and somewhat lawless Echigo, Akitada recognizes his need to earn the locals' trust if he's to bring the citizens into line. When the lieutenants arrive, they see corrupt judges ready to condemn a hapless trio of unlucky guests of the inn. Questioning by Hitomaro and company reveals the three as the unlikeliest of murder suspects. Not so Sato's randy young widow or members of a local gang that's been robbing every business in sight. (The studly Tora gets the inside scoop on the inn's doings by sleeping with Kiyo, Mrs. Sato's maid.) Akitada himself investigates, but the case is complicated by the disappearance of an elderly servant, the murder of a prostitute and subplots involving an army deserter and a dangerous warlord.

Akitada's fourth adventure, as beautifully written as his first three, keeps his wife Tamako in the background but adroitly develops his three sidekicks.

Chicago Sun-Times

"In Parker's hands, 11th century Japan comes alive in radiant fashion. Black Arrow is an exquisite book, suspenseful and action-packed, but also beautiful in its evocative descriptions and loving rendering of its subject."
(David Montgomery  1/21/07)

The Globe and Mail

"Black Arrow is a terrific mystery with a setting that is unforgettable . . . Parker's research is extensive and she makes great use of the complex manners and relationships in feudal Japan. At times the scenes may owe a bit to filmmakers such as Akira Kurosawa, but that's no criticism. This is a fine historical detective novel with good characterization and a great setting."
(Margaret Cannon  12/23/06)

From Booklist

Parker turns in the fourth mystery rooted in her fascination with eleventh-century Japan and featuring Sugawara Akitada, a young nobleman down on his luck who has accepted various governmental administrative positions. Akitada ends up investigating murder and other mayhem while trying to govern a hostile population and hold his own family together. A dark secret is at the center of this novel, culminating in the surprise confession of a family member controlling the grand castle in a bone-chilling northern province. Themes familiar to many cultures--the healing power of love, the inherent corruption of government, socioeconomic stratification, and the power of individual honor--permeate the pages. Numerous characters besides Akitada are repeat performers from the previous Parker cast, but Parker wisely presumes no prior knowledge. The historical research is impressive, the prose crisp, and Parker's ability to universalize the human condition makes for a satisfying tale.
Steve Weinberg Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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