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The Dragon Scroll

by I J Parker

      If you have come to the end of Robert van Gulik's hugely enjoyable books and are mourning the fact that there aren't going to be any more (due to the author being dead) then mourn no more. Judge Dee may be history, but here comes Sugawara Akitada, impecunious nobleman and young government clerk on his first mission. He has to leave the capital for distant Kazusa and track down missing tax convoys. But he seems to have been set up for a fall, though that isn't going to deter him. With his old family retainer Seimei and ex-highwayman Tora by his side this mystery is going to be history... more ways than one. Books set in 11th century Japan are thin on the ground, and anybody setting their whodunit in untapped territory gets my applause. I don't know enough about the setting to know how accurate it is (but then you probably don't either) but the story and pace keep this rolling along at a brisk rate and the book had ended long before I was ready, with the cases neatly concluded. If you admired van Gulik's laconic style then this is not written the same way, but a slim enough volume nevertheless. To its detriment at times the whole thing does seem very much like its predecessor indeed, with the highwayman turned bodyguard, old retainer, several intertwined cases, official being sent to distant parts to solve insoluble mysteries etc, but most of the time I was too busy enjoying it to care very much. A cozier tale than Laura Joh Rowland, but fans of either her work or you-know-who ought to find this highly entertaining. More, please...

The Book

Penguin Putnam
July 2005
Historical Crime [1014, Japan]
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2005
© 2005