Monday, January 07, 2008

The Dragon Scroll

The Dragon Scroll by I. J. Parker, 2005, Penguin Books

This is the first book in a series of mystery novels set in 11th century Japan, starring Sugawara Akitada, a young inspector out to make a name for himself. The plot starts in a seemingly simple way, with Akitada heading out to a provincial town to investigate some missing tax shipments which never made it to the capital. Of course, in fine tradition, Akitada's presence merely set events in motion, such that all sorts of mishaps and fiendish deeds occur arround him, which may or may not be related to the missing tax shipments (though you know everything will come together in the end).

If my facts are correct, this is the author's first novel. And it shows. There are no real flaws with the book, but it just doesn't have the narrative flow that more accomplished works have. I don't doubt that the author has gotten better over time, though; I got this book because I had heard very good things about The Hell Screen, which is another book further on in this series. But one should start at the beginning, of course. In fact, the writings gets better as the book goes along, though this may have more to do with the fact that the plot threads started coming together about halfway through the story. The characters themselves are pretty good, though some of the characters outside of the main trinity of Akitada, Seimei, and Tora did not get fleshed out very much, and it wasn't always possible to really understand their motivations. But in the end those are minor marks against it, as this book was an enjoyable read, and I will most likely seek out more books in the series.

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