The Dragon Scroll
Sugawara Akitada is an impoverished Japanese nobleman working as a clerk in the Ministry of Justice. Sent on his first official assignment to the distant province of Kazusa to discover what has become of lost tax shipments, Akitada soon stumbles on murder. Aided by his servants, Seimei and Tora, he must solve the murders and uncover a conspiracy before it leads to rebellion.
Parker’s third in the Akitada series is an appealing little mystery based around an engaging protagonist and stock but amusing sidekicks. The good-natured ribbing between traditional Seimei and cheeky but likable Tora provides relief from the more serious elements of the story. Akitada is a well-written character, there’s a hint of romance thrown in, and the mystery moves along at a pleasant clip. Though Parker never quite manages to evoke a truly convincing atmosphere for 11th century Japan (her characters act too modern), this doesn’t greatly detract from the story. And while the novel opens with a mystery that seems unrelated and abruptly dropped, Parker dovetails the two storylines nicely later in the novel. Parker has the perfect setup for a long run of charming mysteries, and this reviewer would be pleased to see more of them.