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 (# 18 in the Akitada series)

On a visit to a remote mountain region with his children, Akitada hopes to find some peace after the break-up of his marriage. Instead they become involved almost immediately in the random violence that plagues the peasants of the valley. Farmers are murdered, rice stores are burned, and young girls disappear. The local policeman seems honest, but soon Akitada fears to trust anyone. When his retainer is arrested for murder and his daughter threatened by a gang of bandits, he fights back. Powerless and far from court, he must confront the ruthless villain behind the crimes.

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Reader Reviews of The Kindness of Dragons:

Another Great Journey to Early Japan (5 stars) - December 26, 2018

After reading all of the previous books, I recently purchased volume 18 in the Sugawara Akitada mystery series, The Kindness of Dragons. Each novel is engaging (neither too convoluted nor too simple), with characters who develop as Akitada solves crimes in the nation's busy capital or remote small towns. The new book is set in one of the latter, as Akitada finally visits his sister's family who live out in a rice-growing area.

My public library had the first six books, so I began buying the rest of them. Now I anxiously await each new title, getting the print-on-demand paperback versions. The books work as stand alones, but I've loved the realistic progression through the characters' lives as they matured or become aged, married, had children, or occasionally died. Akitada solves his mysteries, suffering more than his fair share of troubles, both personal and professional, but of course he brought many of the dilemmas upon himself. I especially appreciate that these tales do not include either heroes or villains with magical, fantasy powers!

Tora is my favorite member of the diverse cast of characters (most becoming old friends after "we" have solved a few cases together), who joined Akitada in the very first book and continues into The Kindness of Dragons. Good looking, cheerful and superstitious, Tora's a common man who often functions as an alter-ego to the rational and staid upper-class Sugawara. Between them, readers are introduced to the wide-ranging world of 11th century Japan, from princely life at court and lesser government officials, to ordinary shopkeepers and the dregs of society; all in well-researched settings and evocative landscapes.

I. J. Parker's writing is so inviting that I try to read only a chapter or two a day when each new book arrives so I don't finish it too quickly! Though I have revisited a few of my favorites several times, I recently started on the whole series in chronological order again. Obviously, I recommend all of the Sugawara Akitada mysteries to anyone with an interest in Heian Japan (more fun and accessible than The Tale of Genji), or folks who simply want a break from cozy amateur sleuths or the usual cops and suspects.

 

A great long-running series -- highly recommended (5 stars) - September 15, 2018

A beautifully written, fascinating mystery set in 11th century Japan during the Heian Period. Unlike many long-running series, I.J. Parker's Akitada Sugawara novels never go stale. All the books are full of informative historical and cultural details that really bring Heian Period Japan to life. The mysteries are also compelling and often poignant. The characters are not static but continue to evolve and develop as they age. I appreciate that Parker has not made Sugawara into an idealized "Mary Sue" character, but portrayed him as a complex 3D character with flaws who undergoes many highs and lows in both his personal and professional life. The stories are reminiscent of another one of my favorite series, namely the Judge Dee mysteries by Van Gulik. Readers who enjoyed that series will also love this one. I highly recommend this series.

 

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