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Over the years, many readers have posted their reactions to the Akitada novels on Amazon. These have been a source of great pleasure and encouragement to me. Of the many reviews posted on Amazon, the ones below are particularly treasured because these readers shared some rare insights. Usually what they recognized was a part of my overall plan for the series and meant that I had succeeded with my vision. From the very start these novels were meant to follow one manís life from youth to old age, revealing his flaws as well as his virtues, tracing changes in his personality through joy and grief, and above all show his abiding determination to make an imperfect world a little better.

My heartfelt thanks to all!


Dr. J. on THE OLD MEN OF OMI:

Having read all the Akitada novels so far, I enjoyed this story of the twists and turns that carry his life forward after the shattering loss of his wife & newborn child. So many men & families had to find a way to go on after the loss of wife & mother in childbed through history, and each of their stories is deeply personal; Parker's gentle prose conveys the bafflement and loss Akitada feels along with his efforts to get back to work and do what he has been good at. Members of the household, especially his right hand man Tora (now presenting himself as a lieutenant) seek to help him move forward, but the best healing comes from an unexpected source. Meanwhile,there's a string of murders to sort out!

One of the things I like about this series is that the unspoken assumptions, the things make up "normal" life, are radically different in medieval Japan, and Parker shows this very simply and naturally, without lessons or sermons from the omniscient narrator. It is what it is, and there you are. The interweaving of Buddhist & Shinto traditions is uniquely Japanese, whereas the growing political power of the larger abbeys is familiar to readers of European medieval history as well; both of these currents play a role in this story.

The book is probably enjoyable on its own but really-- read the earlier books first. The plot will have much deeper meaning for you!

Raymond McCaulley on DEATH ON AN AUTUMN RIVER:

I have read several of these books and every one seems better than the last. It's refreshing to read something with no bad words, no steamy sex scenes, no overplayed/over described violence - but a mystery that draws me in from the first. The characters are very real and have their faults, flaws and strong points which makes them quite believable. I also enjoy the cultural references and setting - and marvel at how intricate crimes were solved with no CSI, cell phones etc. Highly recommend this book - as well as others in the series.

Angela Murphy on DEATH OF A DOLL MAKER:

One of her best, with an unexpected ending. The Akitada books have all been good, but this one takes the series to a whole new level. I find myself impatient to see the next book.

M. Yuen on DEATH OF A DOLL MAKER:

I've read all the books in the Akitada series and enjoyed them all. This was another page turner. However I'm starting to feel sorry for Akitada. Things have to start looking up. The ending was a surprise. I can't wait for the next book in the series.

McB on THE EMPERORíS WOMAN:

Having read all the Akitada novels so far, I enjoyed this story of the twists and turns that carry his life forward after the shattering loss of his wife & newborn child. So many men & families had to find a way to go on after the loss of wife & mother in childbed through history, and each of their stories is deeply personal; Parker's gentle prose conveys the bafflement and loss Akitada feels along with his efforts to get back to work and do what he has been good at. Members of the household, especially his right hand man Tora (now presenting himself as a lieutenant) seek to help him move forward, but the best healing comes from an unexpected source. Meanwhile, there's a string of murders to sort out!

One of the things I like about this series is that the unspoken assumptions, the things make up "normal" life, are radically different in medieval Japan, and Parker shows this very simply and naturally, without lessons or sermons from the omniscient narrator. It is what it is, and there you are. The interweaving of Buddhist & Shinto traditions is uniquely Japanese, whereas the growing political power of the larger abbeys is familiar to readers of European medieval history as well; both of these currents play a role in this story.

The book is probably enjoyable on its own but really-- read the earlier books first. The plot will have much deeper meaning for you!

T. L.Spotti on THE CRANE PAVILION:

I.J. Parker consistently delivers high quality, facinating tales of ancient japan which revolve around the never ending trials of a mid level civil servant working in the Imperial Department of justice. Constantly under appreciated by his superiors, Parker's hero struggles against a flawed justice system, stifling bureaucratic snares, and social inequalities to bring simple justice to both the high and the low, while faithfully serving his emperor. It's easy to compare Akitada to John Le Carre's George Similey character, as they both fight the same demons centuries apart. When reading the Crane Pavilion, one can smell the steamy bath houses in the back streets and the exotic perfumes of the pleasure quarter as Parker takes us by the arm and leads us through the byways of Japan's capital city where her hero solves two complex mysteries, and by doing so, seems to damage his own personal interests at the same time . Akitada's efforts always brings justice to all except himself. A great read.

John H. Turner on THE CRANE PAVILION:

Sometimes, I wish I had the ability to give Akitada a good shaking. This is a proof of the character's humanity. Always under a very dark cloud, Akitada has hit rock bottom here. His struggle against inner and outer forces is clearly shown in their contexts. This is a great series, so please start with the first in the series and work your way forward with him.

Vanwin on RASHOMON GATE:

I have become easily addicted to I J Parker books of Akitada but sadly have now read them all.

Let's hope I can somehow forget them and then read them all over again. Not a mediocre one among the lot.

I feel as if I know the regular characters personally.

Erilar on RASHOMON GATE:

Although not the first book in the series chronologically, this was the first Akitada book I read and this review is long overdue. Like all the Akitada mysteries, this offers a baffling mystery set in a little-known place and time, varied and interesting characters both good and not, evoking both time and place convincingly without the massive info dumps some historical mystery writers are so prone to. Highly recommended.

Neal Pollock on THE HELL SCREEN:

Returning from his Governorship in the North (per The Dragon Scroll), Akitada is faced with 3 mysteries. I won't bore you with the details--as others have already described them and I don't want to spoil the book for you. But, this entry in the series provides lots of background material on his parents and their relationships to him and his sisters as well as real-time interactions with them and his new brother-in-law. As usual, Tora the Tiger (medieval counterpart to Tony? or maybe Katie Perry's "Roar?") has a major role as does Genba. Interestingly, the several overindulgences of the characters are highlighted in this book: Genba's is food; Tora's is women; Seimei's is Confucian(?) sayings; and Akitada's is self-reliance (which gets him into a terrifying fix). Still, much of the wisdom of the ages is provided herein:

p. 9: That which seems real in the world of men is but a dream and a deception. Though the reverse is also true. [also on pp. 334-5]

p. 12: Higher Truth and Common Truth are different and the two cannot be one, though they are known as the Twofold Truth. [Levels of Abstraction]

p. 44: The complexities of fate always had a way of catching him.

p. 330: Hell had little to compare with the sufferings of the living.

p. 334-5: That which seems real in the world of men is but a dream and a deception...The reverse is also true. [also on p. 9]

Such quotes demonstrate the difference between first-hand knowledge (personal experience) and second-hand knowledge (education, training, Knowledge Management). One wonders if Akitada's personal experience will shape his activities in the future or not--I think we would all agree (at least in this case) that we'd have preferred the 2nd-hand version!

Of the 8 books in this series I've read, I liked this one best, despite the brutality in it. Interestingly, I read some of the series as library books and some I've purchased. Since the order of publication and the chronological order of the contents don't match, this worked out well. I still have The Rashomon Gate (the 1st published I think) to read--but I own a copy I got from Amazon. Enjoy! p.s. having read some reviews of Ingrid J. Parker's books on Amazon, I am about to try some other authors referenced in Amazon reviews--Laura Joh Rowland's 17th-18th century Japan (as opposed to Parker's 10th or 11th century) and (per the cover of "The Hell Screen," "Akitada is as rich a character as Robert Van Gulik's intriguing detective Judge Dee" The Dallas Morning News. Though, I believe the Dee books are set in China.

E.A.Salinas on THE HELL SCREEN:

I.J. Parker surpassed many of her peers when she spun up the first story of Sugawara Akitada, an impoverished aristocrat in Japanese's medieval times.

And she does an even more entertaining -- and chilling -- job in the second book in the series "The Hell Screen," spinning together plenty of weird humor, a truly horrific serial killer, and plenty of historical details about medieval Japan's capital city. And her hero -- the perpetually stressed-out Akitada -- is a solid detective with plenty of brains and some intriguing skeletons hidden in his past.

After some years as a provisional governor, Sugawara Akitada is returning to Heian Kyo (Kyoto) ahead of his wife and baby son. His mother is dying, and even though they can't stand each other, traditions dictate he should be there. Along the way there he stays in a Buddhist monastery and hears a scream in the middle of the night -- and upon returning to Hiean Kyo, he learns that a young woman was murdered by her brother-in-law that night. It has nothing to do with Akitada until he learns that his younger sister Yoshiko is in love with the man who is accused of murder.

Even worse, his brother-in-law has been accused of stealing imperial treasures, so Akitada does some snooping around. But his investigations lead him back to the woman murdered in the monastery, a feisty female wrester, a traveling troupe, and to a strange old artist who makes extremely graphic "hell screens" for monks -- and who may be a murderer himself. But if he doesn't quickly uncover who is involved in the assorted deaths, he might be the next one to die....

Most murder mysteries take place either in gritty modern urban settings, or in cozy Anglo/American settings. So the setting of "The Hell Screen" is unusual in itself, since its urban setting is not only decidedly unmodern but is ruled by the mores and laws of a now-past historical era. And while Parker has clearly done her research, she doesn't overwhelm readers by trying to show how much she knows -- she simply coats her mysteries in the rich flavours, rituals and traditions of Heian-era Japan and lets the story flow.

The basics of your average murder mystery are here: A lot of clues, coverups, clever tricks, red herrings, a persistent detective and a disgruntled cop who hates it when the detective gets the limelight. And as in the first book, there are multiple crimes with multiple guilty parties -- theft, cold-blooded financial murder, and even a serial killer. Parker interweaves several different subplots with a juggler's dexterity -- the weird old artist, the seemingly obvious murder of the woman at the monastery, and the involvement of a acrobatic troupe. And Akitada is distracted during all of this by his continuing family troubles, especially since Mommy Dearest is about to croak.

And Parker's solid, detailed writing is able to evoke some pretty ghastly scenes, such as when poor Akitada is left to slowly freeze to death outdoors. But she also loosens up with some fun comic relief, mostly from ex-ruffian servants Genbu and Tora -- and particularly from Miss Plumblossom, an imposing and obese acrobat who does something really cruel to Tora's manly bits.

As for Akitada, he's a solid detective -- smart, logical, and now a doting daddy as well as a loving husband. Some new facets of his life are revealed in this book, as Akitada finds out why his mother has always loathed him and the true nature of his origins. Tora and Genba serve as excellent backup -- although Genba gets distracted by Miss Plumblossom -- while Yoshiko gets to take a front-and-center role in this book, when she tries to stand by her imprisoned lover.

Heian-era mystery, death, love and theft are all interwoven in "The Hell Screen," and IJ Parker's likable detectives and solid writing mean that there's room for many more of her books on the mystery shelves.

L.A. Robinson on THE FIRES OF THE GODS

As the eighth volume in the series featuring Heinan period civil servant and amateur sleuth Sugawara Akitada, The Fires of the Gods continues what we Sugawara fans have grown to love about this series; the continued maturation of the main character. Sugawara Akitada is by now in his mid 30's and has experienced love, loss, exile all the while growing as a man. What is so engaging about his character is that he is truly a product of his time in history with it's very hierarchal, ritual bound society; yet he perceives a more real way of relating to those in his world beyond the bounds of the highly codified relationships of the time. Before it's too late to save the relationships that are important to Sugawara learns the value of listening; to his wife and to his retainers. His strength is in not having all the answers but in relying on the strengths of those who would be considered his inferiors at that time. Of course there is a great mystery to be solved which puts the continuation of his house and the survival of his family at great risk. But fans of this excellent cast of characters can rest assured that Sugawara Akitada and those who share his concerns will bring peace to Kyoto once again.

Anonymous on THE MASUDA AFFAIR:

I have read the entire Akitada series and just finished reading The Masuda Affair. I didn't think it was possible to like Akitada more, yet the author has found a way to make him more human/flawed and yet more enjoyable as the protagonist than ever. In my opinion (and in my experience, at least as a person of Japanese descent), he struggles as a Japanese and as a male to express his deep feelings of grief, sorrow and loneliness. Some of his expressions are misunderstood or are taken in the wrong way by others. He continually struggles in his career to be respectable and successful. Surrounding him are his loyal retainers Tora, Gemba and Seimei. While trouble follows Akitada everywhere and past villains return to torment him, he finds his way with intellect and fine detective work to solve several murders and determine who is at fault.

If you haven't read the previous books in this series, I encourage you to find and read them! The author has another novel for this series waiting in the wings and I look forward to reading the next installment.

R.B.Bernstein on THE DRAGON SCROLL:

Historical mysteries are like comedy -- either they work or they don't, and there is no middle ground. This mystery, the first of what I hope will be a long series, works wonderfully well. It is thoroughly grounded in the world of early medieval Japan, and it carries its immense learning and scholarship so lightly that only if you've read Japanese history for this period will you realize just how sound its view of Sugawara Akitada and his world is. The writing is always clear, amusing when it wants to be, and deeply moving at the right times. The plotting is sure and sensible, and the mystery unfolds at just the right pace. I read this one and immediately sought out the next. Highest recommendation.

Anonymous on Dragon Scroll:

I have read all the books upto The Convict's Sword in this series and my review is for all the books till then. Having followed quite a few historical crime series, I can say that this series is right there at the top with the likes of C. J. Sansom, Steven Saylor or better than say Laura Joh Rowland. Wonderful characterisation, great historical accuracy and absolutely atmospheric mysteries without sacrificing the pace. It is quite depressing that Parker is unable to find publishers for these wonderful books and is now dependent on e publishing. I personally like to hold a paperback and read instead of looking into a screen. The printed version of the last book in this series " The fires of the Gods" is already quite difficult to get hold of in India. What is wrong with all the publishers?? The third good series that I know of, which will run out because of publishers' problems. Please buy these books...They are absolute top class. To think that her books regularly garner starred reviews from leading review houses, have a devoted following (from what I see in the Amazon), have been included in the best books' lists and yet she finds it difficult to get a publisher while mediocre books like Fifty shades of grey are available dime a dozen!!

M.H.Wombat on Black Arrow:

Like watching a Samurai movie only much much better!

Parker's description of the final battle is simply amazing. You feel you are there witnessing the actual scene.

Having lived in Japan I really appreciate the wonderful insight into the life and times of the characters even if they are fictional.

Looking forward to reading more of the stories in the future.

UFO6 on ISLAND OF EXILES:

I've developed a voracious appetite for Parker's Sugawara novels that's unlike anything I've experienced for a long time, and if it didn't carry with it an unwarranted diminution of her previous titles, I'd call "Island of Exiles" her best work yet. There are scenes in this novel reminiscent of Tolkien, as raw and gritty a dramatization of a man's reduction to an animalistic state as I can remember.

This one vaults Sugawara entirely out of his familial and official milieus to do some undercover work - *seriously* undercover - and the departure is both harrowing and exhilarating. Akitada's extramarital fling in this one detracts somewhat from his character's sense of integrity, but in Sugawara's cultural/historical context it's certainly not an implausible nor even unusual occurrence. Presumably his lapse will feed into later character evolution? At any rate, the plot, which begins with a horrific, dreamlike ordeal, builds gradually into an absolute rip-snorter that is thoroughly engrossing. I lost countless hours zooming in on Sadoshima Island via Google Earth while reading this novel, and have added it to my list of must-visit Japanese locales for future vacations. The novel feels so real that I half expect to find the temples and horrific mines Parker describes when I get there. Actually, I was floored when I saw the posted images of the real-world Choukoku Temple at Hase - the image of Shunsai's monastery that Parker had painted in my head previously was virtually identical to them.

Once again, the wait for her next is going to be as excruciating as it was for this one. Amazon is indicating the hardcover version of "Island" is set for release in a couple of weeks - very odd that the paperbacks were published beforehand.

 

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