At a time of personal and professional turmoil, an 11th-century sleuth must also clear himself from suspicion of murder.
Sugarawa Akitada has steadily risen to the post of senior secretary in the Ministry of Justice in Imperial Japan. Along the way, he's solved seven baffling mysteries (The Masuda Affair, 2010, etc.). Impending fatherhood should make him happy, but his wife Tamako's pregnancy is marred by illness. An especially bad day begins with the noxious smell of smoke and the arrival of Akitada's retainer Tora, who's barely escaped a raging fire with his life. Akitada agrees with Tora's assessment that the fire was probably arson. Later that day at work, matters go from bad to worse. Akitada is forced to chastise Munefusa, a careless employee, and after speaking too frankly to the Minister, Fujiwara Kaneie, is pressed to take a leave of absence that could herald his dismissal. Not even the arrival of whimsical court poet Ono Takamura can lift Akitada's spirits more than temporarily. At home, Akitada's devoted secretary Seimei brings the news that nobelman Kiyowara Kane has been murdered and, amazingly, that Akitada, who had visited Kane the day before, is the prime suspect. While Tora is busy invesitgating the suspicious fire, Akitada feels compelled, perhaps unwisely, to solve the murder himself. First among his own suspects is Ono, who makes no secret of his disdain for the victim or his affection for the widow.
A brisk and well-plotted mystery with a cast of regulars who become more fully developed with every episode.