The September 2009 Alfred Hitchcock has a story from one of my favorite mystery short story writers, IJ Parker. Parker's main character is Sugawara (try saying that 3 times, fast) Akitada. The setting is 11 century Japan, Heian-Kyo (modern Kyoto). The stories generally revolve around some aspect of Japanese culture of the period, often they take place during festivals, for instance.

In this case, Akitada is asked to investigate a murder that may just have been caused by burning incense. The person asking him to look into the case had no love for the deceased but thinks the real target was himself. And who himself is is important to the tale - Akitada's cousin, a wealthy man who hasn't hidden his dislike of Akitada's and his mother but, since he is a blood relation, may just leave Akitada and mom a fortune when he dies.

Akitada, always very smart, takes the case, gets to the bottom of things and ends the story pretty much under arrest though with a chance he'll be set free. How he got into this mess is one of the several twists you'll have to read the story to figure out. Another homerun from IJ Parker.

I see from her website that her next Akitada book is on its way to bookstores. It's called "The Convict's Sword" and it has already garnered a rave from Publisher's Weekly: "Besides smoothly mixing action and deduction, Parker gives her protagonist an emotional depth that raises her to the front rank of contemporary historical writers." This is a starred review. Can't wait...

By the way, if you've never read an IJ Parker story, let me help you up from your benighted position. Here's a link.

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Comment by I. J. Parker on July 14, 2009 at 4:43am
Oh, gosh! I have thanked Steven for his generous comments on his own blog and didn't expect him here. Keep in mind, he's a good friend. We've shared some early struggles and I've been immensely impressed with his police procedural series set in Puerto Rico and, if possible, even more with THE CONCRETE MAZE, a hardboiled thriller. He, too, publishes regularly in AHMM.

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