Synopses & Reviews
Eleventh-century Japan: After a difficult but successful assignment as provisional governor of Eichigo, Akitada Sugawara is finally allowed to return to Heian Kyo. But instead of a triumphant homecoming accompanied by his beautiful wife and young son, Akitada must ride ahead of his entourage to the sickbed of his dying mother. Fading light and a steady downpour interrupt his journey, forcing him to take refuge in a temple where a brilliantly illustrated hell screen and a piercing cry disturb his restless sleep.
Upon his arrival, Akitada finds his mother, sick and bitter, cursing his return, while his youngest sister, Yoshiko, forsakes her own happiness to serve as the old woman's nurse and maid. Only his sister Akiko seems fortunate---married to a wealthy nobleman, Toshikage, and expecting their first child. But appearances prove to be deceptive, for it is not long before Akitada is asked to help clear his brother-in-law's name. In the course of his investigation Akitada learns that his night at the temple was disturbed by more than a terrible scream. A woman has been murdered, and because of his reputation for detective work, Akitada must solve another mystery. Personal and professional interests begin to merge as Akitada becomes ensnared in a tangled web of deceit and malevolence that will, in the end, strike very close to home.
Fascinating historical detail and well-drawn characters distinguish Shamus-winner Parker's second Japanese mystery (after 2002's well-received Rashomon Gate
). On his way back to the capital city of Heian Kyo (now Kyoto), Lord Sugawara Akitada, a government official with a knack for stumbling into crime, stops at a monastery to shake off the cold and get a few hours sleep. Other guests of the Buddhist monks include a well-dressed woman and her companion, a troupe of actors and a renowned artist. After Akitada views the artist's work- in-progress, aptly called the "Hell Screen," his sleep is filled with nightmarish images and a bloodcurdling scream. Not sure whether he was dreaming, Akitada wanders around the monastery but finds nothing amiss. After an early morning departure, Akitada arrives at his ancestral home to visit his dying mother and soon learns of a heinous murder. Realizing the crime took place at the monastery where he slept, Akitada can't resist investigating. Many complications and subplots ensue, all rendered in expertly evocative prose. Parker's remarkable command of 11th-century Japanese history-from the rituals of the royal court to the minutia of daily life within Japan's often rigid caste system-makes for an excellent whodunit. Readers will be enchanted by Akitada, an honorable sleuth who proves more progressive than his time.
Publishers Weekly (Starred)
Parker has crafted another exotic and compelling mystery set in eleventh- century Japan and featuring government official and sometime detective Akitada Sugawara. Journeying home to attend to his dying mother, Akitada seeks shelter at a monastic temple during a storm. Exhausted and disoriented, he is inextricably drawn to an artistically rendered, yet horrifically realistic, hell screen depicting a variety of gruesome death scenes. When a young woman is murdered during the night, Akitada becomes embroiled^B in a complex investigation that involves members of his own family. Exposing the brazen theft of an identity, the wily Akitada is able to untangle the strands of a cleverly plotted series of murders. This intriguing combination of history and suspense is distinguished by a wealth of authentic cultural detail.
"Parker has created a wonderful protagonist
. With her steady, mature narrative, [Parker] puts us at ease in a Japan of 1,000 years ago."
The Wall Street Journa
Rich, textured, and historically researched, this complex mystery of ancient Japan is the second in an acclaimed series featuring Akitada Sugawara.
A tangled web of deceit strikes very close to home in this new mystery of ancient Japan featuring Sugawara Akitada
Eleventh-century Japan is the expertly realized setting for I. J. Parker?s ingenious mystery series featuring sleuth Sugawara Akitada. In The Hell Screen, Akitada is on his way to the bedside of his dying mother when bad weather forces him to take refuge in a temple whose central treasure is a brilliantly painted hell screen. Perhaps its violent imagery influences his dreams: that night he is awakened by a scream. It?s only after Akitada returns to a scene of domestic unhappiness and scandal that the significance of that cry becomes clear. For while he slept, a woman was murdered, and now he must find her killer.
About the Author
I. J. Parker, winner of the Shamus Award for "Akitada’s First Case," a short story published in 1999, lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She writes regularly for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.