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Black Arrow
Sugawara Akitada series #4

by I J Parker

      If, like this reviewer, you have come to the end of the works of Robert van Gulik, Laura Joh Rowland and Ann Woodward, then you will be thrilled to see that Sugawara Akitada is back for a fourth adventure. He has been given a new assignment as provisional governor of Echigo in the far north, where winter comes early and stays late. Once again, it looks as though he has been set up to fail, so he is determined to bring law and order to a hostile and remote area. What with an unfriendly nobleman whose family attracts bad luck, a murdered innkeeper and rumors of a possible uprising, he is going to have his work cut out for him.

Here is an author who knows how to pace her work and spin a good yarn, populated with entertaining characters. Akitada is particularly three-dimensional, making mistakes as he goes along and solving the mysteries very visibly - no rabbits pulled out of hats in these books. I donít know enough about 11th century Japan to be able to tell how accurate the story is, but neither do very many other people either. It is a fun way to learn about it all, and Parker gets under the skin of her characters and their motivations while at the same time reminding us that this is long ago and far away.

Less bloody than Rowland, rather similar in style and ambience to van Gulik being not exactly cozy, but a relaxing, absorbing and very easy read, this series gets better and better - may it run for a very long time.

The Book

December 2006
ISBN13: 9780143035619
Historical Crime - 1015, Japan
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2006
© 2006