Author: I. J. Parker
Published: 2006, Penguin
This is my latest freelance proofreading assignment. Some of the jobs I get are pretty boring, and it can a little painful to slog through them. But sometimes I'll get a book like this one--something I never would have picked out myself to read, but a book that I end up really enjoying.
Black Arrow is a mystery set in 11th century Japan. The hero, Sugawara Akitada, is sent to be the provincial governor in a northern area of Japan. He arrives to chaos--he's got corrupt judges, poorly trained military, and a populace that distrusts him from the get-go. And he must deal with a local warlord who has been usurping the imperial authority that Akitada must now try to reestablish. An innkeeper is murdered and Akitada must prove that the three suspects who have been arrested were framed.
The plot is so full of twists and turns that I couldn't possibly explain it all. But it's one of those good mysteries where everything ties up so cleverly at the end. And when you see the resolution you can think back to all those hints and clues that were dropped and everything just falls into place.
And it's really beautifully written. I love this passage:
"I have met your lady and saw that she is with child. When you become downcast again over what cannot be changed, remember: To have her is like having the sun and moon in your sleeve and holding the universe in your hand."The only problem I had with this book is that there are almost no female characters. The only two are Akitada's wife, who we see only briefly, and an evil scheming seductress who we hate. I thought this was a very "boy" book and was shocked to find that the author is a woman! I'm always amazed by authors who can write believable primary characters of the opposite gender. Anyway, I think this would make a good gift for your favorite male reader.
Black Arrow isn't out until November, but if this sounds interesting to you, there are three previous Sugawara Akitada novels in print: The Hell Screen, Rashomon Gate, and The Dragon Scroll.