The Hell Screen by I. J. ParkerThe Hell Screen by I. J. Parker

The Hell Screen

byI. J. Parker

Paperback | June 24, 2008

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A tangled web of deceit strikes very close to home in this new mystery of ancient Japan featuring Sugawara Akitada

Eleventh-century Japan is the expertly realized setting for I. J. Parker?s ingenious mystery series featuring sleuth Sugawara Akitada. In The Hell Screen, Akitada is on his way to the bedside of his dying mother when bad weather forces him to take refuge in a temple whose central treasure is a brilliantly painted hell screen. Perhaps its violent imagery influences his dreams: that night he is awakened by a scream. It?s only after Akitada returns to a scene of domestic unhappiness and scandal that the significance of that cry becomes clear. For while he slept, a woman was murdered, and now he must find her killer.
I. J. Parker, winner of the Shamus Award for "Akitada’s First Case," a short story published in 1999, lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She writes regularly for Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
Title:The Hell ScreenFormat:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 7.75 × 5.1 × 0.88 inPublished:June 24, 2008Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143035622

ISBN - 13:9780143035626


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Book 2, in the Sugawara Akitada series Some sites will show this book as the 5th in the series. The Hell Screen, set in eleventh century Japan, features government official Sugawara Akitada and occasional amateur detective. It is a solid multilayered mystery with detailed attention to Ancient Japan, a spec of humour and a tad of horror. This entertaining and exotic novel sends Akitada to his ancestral home to be at the bedside of his bitter and dying mother and sisters troubled by personal dilemmas. On his way, he seeks shelter at temple whose great treasure is a brilliantly painted hell screen depicting the horrors of hell. That night his sleep is filled with nightmarish images and bloodcurdling screams. When Akitada finally arrives home he learns that his night at the temple was more than a bad dream, a woman had been murdered. Personal and professional interests begin to merge and soon Akitada becomes ensnared in a tangled web of deceit while he hunts for her killer. This is a particularly interesting and an excellent whodunit tale, a rich and intriguing combination of history and suspense. Ms. Parker is a fascinating writer an expert in weaving into her plot and sub-plots the mystery of ancient Japan and painting complex and realistic characters for our enjoyment. The plot keeps a steady pace, has all the basics needed to make it an entertaining read: lots of clues, red herrings, weird characters, good and bad guys, a persistent protagonist, emotional punch, subtle dialogue, etc. (I am a huge fan). Reading this series in sequence is not particularly necessary the author provides enough background to situate us and tease us to read those we have skipped.
Date published: 2013-05-17

Editorial Reviews

?Fascinating historical detail and well-drawn characters distinguish Shamus-winner Parker's second Japanese mystery (after 2002's well-received Rashomon Gate). On his way back to the capital city of Heian Kyo (now Kyoto), Lord Sugawara Akitada, a government official with a knack for stumbling into crime, stops at a monastery to shake off the cold and get a few hours sleep. Other guests of the Buddhist monks include a well-dressed woman and her companion, a troupe of actors and a renowned artist. After Akitada views the artist's work- in-progress, aptly called the "Hell Screen," his sleep is filled with nightmarish images and a bloodcurdling scream. Not sure whether he was dreaming, Akitada wanders around the monastery but finds nothing amiss. After an early morning departure, Akitada arrives at his ancestral home to visit his dying mother and soon learns of a heinous murder. Realizing the crime took place at the monastery where he slept, Akitada can't resist investigating. Many complications and subplots ensue, all rendered in expertly evocative prose. Parker's remarkable command of 11th-century Japanese history-from the rituals of the royal court to the minutia of daily life within Japan's often rigid caste system-makes for an excellent whodunit. Readers will be enchanted by Akitada, an honorable sleuth who proves more progressive than his time.? ?Publishers Weekly (Starred) ?Parker has crafted another exotic and compelling mystery set in eleventh- century Japan and featuring government official and sometime detective Akitada Sugawara. Journeying home to attend to his dying mother, Akitada seeks shelter at a monastic temple during a storm. Exhausted and disoriented, he is inextricably drawn to an artistically rendered, yet horrifically realistic, hell screen depicting a variety of gruesome death scenes. When a young woman is murdered during the night, Akitada becomes embroiled^B in a complex investigation that involves members of his own family. Exposing the brazen theft of an identity, the wily Akitada is able to untangle the strands of a cleverly plotted series of murders. This intriguing combination of history and suspense is distinguished by a wealth of authentic cultural detail.? ?Booklist "Parker has created a wonderful protagonist?. With her steady, mature narrative, [Parker] puts us at ease in a Japan of 1,000 years ago." ?Boston Globe "Terrifically imaginative." ?The Wall Street Journa