I J Parker

The Island of the Gods

""The sights, sounds and smells of medieval Japan are all there." "


It is 1033, in the last years of the Heian period of Japanese history, and Sugawara Akitada is the governor of Mikawa Province. He is a troubled man, because the Imperial Court in Kyoto is sending an official from the Censor's Bureau to investigate a claim that he improperly performs his duties. Not only that, his marriage is in trouble and his second wife, Yukiko, has left him to take up a position in the court in Kyoto.

Then a corpse is discovered on the beach, and on its arm is a tattoo that links it to the powerful Matsudaira family. If this isn't enough, the body of a young woman is also discovered, lying in a rice field. She is Lady Hiroki, daughter of the head of another powerful family, the Imagawas. Akitawa and his faithful retainer and friend Tora, investigate the murders, and are drawn into the murky world of powerful overlords, haughty families and murky brothels. Along the way there are intriguing questions that must be answered. How is the island known as the Island of the Gods involved in all of this? Is it a pirates' lair? Where is Lady Hiroki's maidservant Otoki? She was with Horiko on the night of the murder, and now she has disappeared. And what part does Tojo, who runs a gang of highwaymen, play in all of this?

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This is the sixteenth book in the Sugawara Akitada series, and Ingrid J. Parker, through careful research, has brought 11th century Japan alive on its pages. The sights, sounds and smells of medieval Japan are all there. So too is a panoply of characters, from arrogant high-born lords ('the good') to merchants, government officials and lowly peasants. The story is deceptively simple, though the interlacing of plot, sub plot and character is done in a satisfying way. Akitada himself is well-drawn. He is a fair, honest man trying to do his best in a country where class and patronage get you further than intelligence or integrity. Tora is not only Akitada's retainer, he is also his friend. He is loyal and fearless, and though he is married, he still has an eye for a pretty girl, which brings some humour into the story. The various strands of sub plot intertwine beautifully with the story's main thrust, producing many red herrings. One sub plot however, remains glaringly unresolved at the end of the book. Could this be a signal that Ingrid Parker is working on the 17th book, wherein all will be revealed? I do hope so, and if she is, I'll be first in the queue, anxious to get my hands on it.

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