The third in the series by I.J. Parker, The Dragon Scroll features young Sugawara Akitada, an impoverished samurai of noble birth serving as a government clerk at the Ministry of Justice. Sugawara is assigned to
Sugawara must exercise his full powers of diplomacy as he examines the accounts of the outgoing governor Fujiwara Motosuke, soon-to-be father-in-law of the Emperor and confronts Master Joto, the Abbot of the local temple, about disruptive and unruly monks. It is while hunting down the lost tax convoys, that Sugawara comes across evidence of several seemingly unrelated murders - that of a lady-in-waiting of the imperial household in the capital, of a retired former governor of Kazusa province, of local prostitutes in Fujisawa and Kazusa provinces.
Fortunately, Sugawara's good nature and honesty win him friends and allies. He is accompanied by his loyal family retainer and trusted companion, Seimei. Along the way, Sugawara befriends Tora, an army deserter who becomes his servant, and a familiar character in the Sugawara Akitada series. Sugawara is also aided by Higekuro, a crippled instructor in martial arts and Higekuro's two lovely and unconventional daughters.
I like escapist fiction very much and I'm partial to detective novels that are set in an unusual time or place. The Sugawara Akitada series, set in Ancient Japan, piqued my interest immediately. The style and language fully communicate a different time and place. The dialogue, interaction between the characters, the description of landscape, customs, and culture work so that you are always aware that the action is going on in a very different time and place. However, at the same time, Sugawara and his colleagues are very accessible and I found myself sympathizing with their problems, heartaches, and difficulties and hoping for their triumphs.
I recommend this book to anyone looking for an unusual detective series and with a fondness for Japanese history and culture.