The Convict’s Sword: A Mystery of Eleventh-Century Japan

Written by I. J. Parker
Review by Pamela Ortega

I. J. Parker continues her series of medieval Japanese mysteries featuring nobleman Sugawara Akitada. This latest installment finds Akitada living in the capital city of Heian Kyo, where he is bored and languishing in his government position as secretary in the department of justice. Still haunted by his unfulfilled promises to his dying friend, Haseo, in Island of Exiles, he determines to use the resources of the government’s archives to look for evidence to clear Haseo’s name and to search for Haseo’s surviving family.

The ingenious plot unfolds with several seemingly unrelated characters and subplots. The action develops more slowly than it did in the exciting previous book, but Akitada faces more intense, personal challenges. His marriage falters, and he confronts personal tragedy and the dangers of a smallpox outbreak in the capital.

In spite of the slower plot development and its more cerebral approach, fans of the series will enjoy the new insights into Akitada’s character and marriage.