Book 7, in the Sugawara Akitada Mystery series
This 7th novel follows the script of most of Ms. Parker's novels: set in the 11th century Japan and features a government official, Sugawara Akitada, as its main protagonist. With all the culture and ambiance of the times Ms. Parker has Akitada facing a personal crisis that is haunting him. He is having trouble moving on after the unfortunate death of his son, Yori.
This installment brings Akitada a bureaucratic misfit home to the capital of Heian-Kyo, on his way he meets an emaciated abandoned child who reminds him of Yori. His efforts to rescue the boy from the clenches of abusive parents land him in hot water with the law. Being accused of improper behavior towards the child puts his career and reputation at risk and Akitada must redirect his efforts to clear his name. While doing so he becomes entangled in the secrets of the powerful Masuda family. His research draws attention to the drowning of Peony, a courtesan known to the Masuda family. Her mysterious death was originally ruled a suicide but now many unanswered questions need answers.
Meanwhile in an unrelated plot Tora, Akitada's faithful servant is looking for his wife who has been kidnapped by a powerful man obsessed with beautiful women. The trail leads Tora and Akitada to the amusement quarter, the shadier side of a vibrant city.
The depth of the relationship between characters is what really makes this novel. The multiple threads create a moving tale about family life and how it can drastically change with the loss of a love one. Although the storyline is set in the 11th century it is narrated with a modern point of view and unravels at a steady pace. It is engaging and is very easy to relate to.
Elegantly written "The Masuda Affair" is an excellent addition to a wonderful series.