Nancy Oakes's Reviews > Rashomon Gate

Rashomon Gate by I.J. Parker
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's review
Jun 26, 2009

liked it
bookshelves: mystery-series-first-novel, crime-fiction, historical-crime-fiction, gave-away
Read in June, 2004

read in 2004 (just catching up on book cataloguing)

The story (actually stories) within the book is good; it's just so tedious! I absolutely love stories set in the context of Ancient Japan or Ancient China and while I like the mysteries here, the author tries to do way too much at the same time. I mean, I don't blame her -- when you put a novel in a setting like Ancient Japan, you have to give the reader that sense of place most readers require. So she spends a lot of time trying to evoke that sense of place and time and it is a little distracting at times. Then again, is is the first of a series so those are usually a little rocky. I also had this feeling while I was reading it that it was based on the format (even down to the pictures) of Robert Van Gulik's novels about Judge Dee which were set in Tang Dynasty China. You have the same formula: official takes as protectors street thugs who swear their loyalty to him; one original crime which unleashes or masks other crimes; the focus on the personal life of the main character. What is different is that Van Gulik's works are short and to the point; this one took me a long time to read through.

anyway: here's a brief plot summary

A former professor at the Imperial University (the main character's alma mater) comes to our hero, Sugawara Akitada (last name first) when he stumbles upon a blackmailing plot. He doesn't know who is being blackmailed, but he does know that there are several professors who are worthy of being blackmailed. He wants Sugawara (who is a minor official in the Ministry of Justice) to find out who is being blackmailed and stop the plot before the academy becomes embroiled in scandal. So, Sugawara takes an official leave from the ministry and becomes a visiting professor at the University so he can be in place. He immediately finds several professors who are "blackmailable." But instead of just blackmail, he finds himself with two murders on his hands.

While I would recommend this book, it would be better for readers not expecting a quick & easy mystery. In this book, you have to follow several plotlines, several people & their stories and it could become a bit wearisome as you go along. Otherwise, like I said, the mystery is good.

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