Sunday, November 13, 2011


I had a friend one time who used to say, “You shouldn’t go to sleep each night until you’ve learned something.” She was a wonderful, wise lady, now deceased.

In the last couple months, I’ve learned about traditional oriental mysteries, probably just enough to be dangerous.

In such stories, the detective is a government official. He solves several mysteries. One of the mysteries is a locked room-type story. And often, in their modern versions, the author patterns some of the stories on existing ancient mystery stories.

So it is with I.J. Parker’s Rashomon Gate.

Parker sets Rashomon Gate in ancient Japan. Sugawara Akitada, a low level official in the Department of Justice, is the detective. He solves three major crimes: (1) The murder of a young woman and a beggar; (2) The murder of a wealthy nobleman; and (3) The murder of his mentor who has asked him to come to the University to investigate a blackmail plot.

Akitada works with an intelligent, but lower-class, assistant. Everything is predicated on social class. Your position in society determines your power.

This book is well worth reading. Parker knows the ancient setting. The story includes a love story. Akitada proposes to his future wife, and, of course, that doesn’t all go well.

The Sugawara Akitada stories are for those who like historical novels with strong, interesting characters.

I see two special strengths in this series: (1) The author knows her subject well; And (2) She writes this fairly long book in a way that’s fun to read.

This is the third of these books I have read. I will read more.

Special note for those with Kindles--Recently Rashomon Gate became available in a lower priced Kindle edition.


George said...

I'm a fan of the Judge Dee mysteries so I'll be ordering Rashomon Gate. Sounds great!

Joe Barone said...

George, I thought Rashomon Gate was a very good book. The other ones were good too.

John said...

Tempting, very tempting. I wonder if the locked room puzzles in Parker's books live up to the cleverness of Japanese writers' books. I was on a Japanese mystery kick a few weeks ago, but I read one that was too dull to finish and that put me off them for awhile. I realize that Parker is not Japanese and only writing about a Japanese character in a Japanese setting and that does make a differnce. I've made a note of Parker's books all the same. My interest in locked room and impossible crime mysteries is rabid enough for me to read at least one of these. Thanks for this review.

Joe Barone said...

John, You are welcome.