The Fires of the Gods: A Sugawara Akitada Mystery
The eighth mystery set in 11th-century Japan begins with Sugawara Akitada pondering many worries. His wife is again pregnant, and Sugawara fears for her life and the outcome of this birth, since they lost their first child to illness and still feel that devastating loss. Add to that a series of unexplained fires that many are explaining as the anger of the Gods over the current ruler. A rash of robberies and gang attacks exacerbates the fears of the local populace and even unnerves the sordid underworld inhabited by the poor. But that distraction temporarily disappears when Sugawara is summoned to the Ministry, where he is first demoted to Junior Secretary and later dismissed due to a slander campaign with unexplainable origins. How will he support his family and servants? Can he apologize for his rash reactions to the demotion and dismissal? Suddenly, he is the object of official investigation when the man who seems to be behind all these changes is murdered.
This novel is an excellent depiction of the actual power and scheming behind the Fujiwara clan’s role in controlling the Japanese government during this tempestuous historical period. Parker continues to be a master of the multi-layered plot, which eventually coalesces into a story that includes a wayward official and his angry son, a missing young monk in training, a wife and servant secretary who are reluctant participants in the murder investigation, and Sugawara’s sidekick, dangerous discoveries of Sugawara’s sidekick, Tora. Although Sugawara always winds up okay in a somewhat predictable end, this in no way lessens the high quality mystery elements that I. J. Parker continues to infuse into her tales. A fine novel guaranteed to satisfy all who love great mysteries and historical fiction about Japan!