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The Hell Screen by I.J. Parker
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1746104,953 (3.72)7
Akitada is on his way to the bedside of his dying mother when bad weather forces him to take refuge in a temple whose central treasure is a brilliantly painted hell screen. That night he is awakened by a terrible scream. While he slept, a woman was murdered, and now he must find her killer, even if it means looking very close to home.… (more)



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Showing 5 of 5
"A mystery of ancient Japan."

I actually meant to wait to read this book till I'd read the first book in the series, "Rashomon Gate." But then I wound up confusing it with Laura Joh Rowland's "Shinju," and forgot that I hadn't read the novel's predecessor. Turns out – not a big deal. Like many mysteries in series, this is a fully stand-alone novel. It's also extremely similar to "Shinju" – it almost might as well be part of the same series. A minor nobleman of Japan with a talent for solving mysteries and a rocky relationship with the local police chief finds himself embroiled in a murder case, after he spends the night at a temple inn – and the body of a young woman is found horribly mutilated. To complicate matters, the prime suspect in the case is both a commoner – and his dependent sister's secret love.
Akitada wants to investigate - but his mother is dying, his older sister is pregnant, his brother-in-law is suspected of stealing from the Imperial treasury, his younger sister seems terribly depressed, and his wife and son are on the road and possibly in danger...
A cast of colorful characters surrounds the action – an acting troupe, a drunken scholar, a sinister but talented artist, a mutilated prostitute, a female martial-arts trainer... etc... as well as our hero Akitada's sidekicks, the sleazy Tora and the ex-Sumo wrestler Genja.
The book's a fun, quick read, unfortunately, there's not much suspense, because it's not much of a secret "whodunit" – it's mostly just about waiting for the characters to figure it out and hoping they won't come to a bad end before they do... ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This is a splendid tale of 11th Century Japan featuring Sugawara Akitado,a government official and nobleman. This gentleman also involves himself in the solving of crimes,usually of the murderous sort.
On his way home after a lengthy absents,he stops overnight at a Temple complex and views a horrific painting of Hell of which the monks are proud to show him. He is awoken by screams in the night which however is is unable to find a cause. Incidentally,at one point in the book there occurs one of the worst cases of torture that I have come across in many a long day so not for the faint-hearted.
This is the fifth is a series of books which feature this interesting and complex character. Similar in many ways to the Chinese series by Robert Van Gulik about Judge Dee. If you have read all of those,then you can do worse than try these I.J.Parker stories. ( )
  devenish | Jun 28, 2013 |
I enjoyed the historical fiction aspects of this book more than the mystery. Partly, that is due to the prologue which reveals to the reader that the body is not the woman it will be identified as - a mistake on the author's part in my opinion. The other mystery is actually ignored by Akitada for a large part of the book, but several extremely broad hints are given. Only the inattention of the main character justifies (barely) this guilty party remaining free and unsuspected long enough to threaten Akitada's son Yuri, drug Akitada himself, and then torture him in a manner very reminiscent of the scene in Dick Francis' mystery [b:Nerve|8537|Nerve|Dick Francis|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1266449755s/8537.jpg|675153]. This subplot is a little bit on the gruesome side, so if you are squeamish be warned! ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 26, 2013 |
Frankly, all of the action in this book really starts in the last few chapters. Sure, there's a nasty murder in the first chapter, to whet the reader's appetite, and then there's another one a little further on down the road, but the bulk of this book is about Sugawara Akitada's personal life. His mom is dying so he's called home; his sister has married not for love but as an arrangement; his other sister is acting bizarre -- and he's worried about his wife and child.

This is the 2nd in the series, and hopefully the 3rd will be better, but I'm not holding out much hope. The first one, Rashomon Gate, was better than this one, and I didn't like it that much. Way too much detail, way too much setting, and not enough oomph. ( )
  bcquinnsmom | Jun 26, 2009 |
The story is set in medieval Japan and is part of the Sugawara Akitada series. I love all the books in the series.

The chracters and the setting are very well done. The stories are mysteries that always bring more details about life in the past. The writing flows so there is no sense on having lots of info dumped on you. There is also a strong vein of humor and humanity running through the series. ( )
  FicusFan | Aug 3, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
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The snoring behind her changed to an unintelligible mumbling,and she turned her head sharply.
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