Rashomon Gate by I.J. Parker (2002)
Description: Sugawara Akitada is the son of impoverished nobility toiling at a low-level job in the Ministry of Justice. When an old friend, Professor Hirata, asks him to investigate a colleague's blackmail, Akitada takes leave of his stultifying job for a temporary post at the Imperial University. There he finds gossip and rivalry abounding. A young girl is murdered. An old man mysteriously vanishes, and the Emperor declares it a miracle. Plunging into a labyrinth of conspiracy among the court's most esteemed nobles, Akitada must step carefully while gathering clues to the puzzle before him.
Review: When his former professor and guardian asks for his help, Sugawara Akitada feels obligated to assist him in his investigation. To do this, Akitada must return to his former university and it reminds him of things he would rather forget. Not long after he begins teaching at the university, Akitada stumbles upon not one but three murders he hopes to solve. He is not alone. His servant, Tora is there to help with his investigation. Not only does Akitada have the task of solving three murders and protecting a young prince, he also has to deal with the most troublesome thing of all... a matter of the heart.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Out of sure luck I picked this up at the library due to my fascination with the Japanese culture. Not only was this an enjoyable read on the history and culture of eleventh-century Japan, but it was a fantastic mystery. Once I started reading, I could not put the book down. Parker created a wide variety of vivid characters. The plot was also fast paced and not drawn out. Overall, this was a fantastic mystery that both historical fiction and mystery fans will enjoy.
As a side note, I discovered that I.J. Parker is a local author here in Virginia Beach.
Score: 4.5 out of 5