Island of Exiles
In this latest entry to Parker’s mystery series set in 11th century Japan, Sugawara Akitada, a middle-ranking government administrator, is forced to leave his wife and infant son when he’s ordered to investigate the murder of exiled Prince Okisada, who had been sent to Sado Island penal colony after trying to usurp the Japanese throne. Akitada goes undercover as an exiled prisoner to solve the crime and, in the process, almost loses his own life under horrifying circumstances.
The reader is taken effortlessly into medieval Japan, into the lives of common criminals as well as those of Japanese nobility. The ease with which the author puts her 21st century reader in that world is a tribute to her meticulous research and skillful writing. Akitada is a very sympathetic protagonist, a loving husband and father who grapples with daily domestic matters and a very inadequate income. His quest to find the prince’s murderer and still save his own life depends in the end on the arrival of his longtime friend and assistant, Tora.
The book is filled with interesting details of the period and its beliefs, all woven expertly into the narrative. A mystery writer of exceptional skill, Parker keeps the action and the clues coming, throwing in ample red herrings into her riveting plot. This is an exciting, well-written read that rises above the crowded genre of historical mysteries. Parker’s series deserves a wide readership.