cover image The Masuda Affair: A Sugawara Akitada Mystery

The Masuda Affair: A Sugawara Akitada Mystery

I.J. Parker, Severn, $28.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7278-6925-8

More than half of Parker's terrific seventh historical set in 11th-century Japan (after 2009's The Convict's Sword) goes by before Sugawara Akitada, senior secretary in the ministry of justice, has a definite murder to solve, but a personal crisis in Sugawara's life—the death of his young son, Yori, from smallpox—more than sustains interest, providing the trigger for a series of events that involve him in the case of Peony, a courtesan whose drowning years earlier was ruled a suicide. On the first night of a festival when the spirits of the dead return home, Sugawara meets an emaciated abandoned child who reminds him of Yori. His efforts to rescue the boy from the abusive people claiming to be his parents land him in trouble with the law and entangle him in the secrets of the noble Masuda family, reputed to be the subject of a curse. The evolving relationship between Sugawara and his wife, Tamako, adds depth. (Nov.)