cover image RASHOMON GATE: A Mystery of Ancient Japan

RASHOMON GATE: A Mystery of Ancient Japan

Ingrid J. Parker, . . St. Martin's Minotaur, $24.95 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-312-28798-6

Of noble family but of minor importance, 11th-century Japanese sleuth Sugawara Akitada serves as a clerk in the Ministry of Justice in this solid debut, which follows the success of Parker's Shamus-winning short story, "Akitada's First Case." A request from Hirata, a law professor and his old mentor at the Imperial University in Heian Kyo (modern-day Kyoto), results in Akitada becoming a temporary teacher there. Ostensibly, Hirata is concerned with what appears to be a blackmailer at the already struggling university—such a scandal might well be a deathblow. But Hirata also has in mind a possible match between his daughter, Tamako, and Akitada, who in addition becomes involved in the disappearance of a student's grandfather. Lord Minamoto, a young student consigned to the school, believes his grandfather was murdered, but the emperor has ruled the disappearance a miracle, so Akitada must move carefully. Parker has neatly blended familiar and esoteric Japanese history, religion, culture and superstition with a well-paced plot to create an appealing historical mystery. Amusingly, the Imperial University seems not too different from today's institutions, with uncertain governmental support, jealousies and bickering among the faculty, as well as impecunious students striving to make ends meet. Akitada, impetuous, passionate and intelligent, is aided by a scampish servant, Tora, and an elderly, resourceful retainer, Seimei. Readers should welcome further tales about the trio. 10 b&w illus. Agent, Jean Naggar.(July 22)