cover image Island of Exiles

Island of Exiles

Ingrid J. Parker, . . Penguin, $14 (398pp) ISBN 978-0-14-311259-4

Parker's fourth Sugawara Akitada mystery (after 2006's Black Arrow ), set in 11th-century Japan, manages to outplot its superb predecessors. When exiled and disgraced Prince Okisada is poisoned on Sado Island, a penal colony, Akitada is recruited by a shadowy pair of high-ranking government officials who devise a risky plan to find the killer. While the local governor's son has been arrested for the murder, suspicions linger that he was framed by high constable Kumo Sanetomo as part of a plot against the emperor. Akitada, disguised as a convict, infiltrates Sado Island and suffers physical abuse from corrupt guards and police as he uncovers indications that the prince may have ingested the fatal blowfish toxin by accident. The fast-moving, surprising plot and colorful writing will enthrall even those unfamiliar with the exotic setting. The Shamus Award Parker won with her first Akitada short story may soon have company. (Sept.)