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Literature / Sugawara Akitada

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A typical cover for the series.
Sugawara Akitada is the hero of a series of detective novels by I.J.Parker, set in the Heian periodnote , Japan.

He is a young official who works in Ministry of Law as a junior clerk after graduating from the university specialized in law. He is also very bright and a genius detective, something his superiors often fail to notice. With the help of his wit, the power his position gives, his friends, servants and patrons, or by sheer luck, he solves cases that seem to be unsolvable.

This book series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Always Murder: What's that? You want to investigate the missing tax payments? Too bad, here's your murderers and murderers murdering murderers.
  • Anachronic Order: Enforced by St. Martin's Press for some reason, forcing Parker to switch the publisher quite fast.
  • Battle Butler: Tora
  • Mal Mariée: Mal Mariée is French for "badly married" and it refers to a young woman unhappily married to an old, jealous guy. Count Tanibata's wife is much younger than him (he is in his sixties, she isn't even twenty) and it is heavily implied that he isn't capable of... more than acting like an overprotective fatherly figure. Which eventually leads to his demise at the hands of her lover or herself.
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  • Meaningful Name: Tora means "tiger" - one of the reasons he'd been confused with a bandit called Mountain Tiger.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Professor Hirata, Akitada's law teacher and father figure, dies in the same book he is introduced in.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Sometimes to the point of malevolence. Especially his superiors.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Obviously Akitada himself, as well as a surprisingly high number of other bureaucrats.
  • Sinister Minister: Akitada, being from a Confucian background, regards Buddhism with suspicion. Corrupt monks and abbots are sprinkled throughout the series, along with some honest Buddhists.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: When Governor Motosuke after multiple attempts to indirectly bribe Akitada by overt hospitality just sends him ten gold bullions, Akitada, infuriated, sends them back, now completely convinced that Motosuke is guilty of stealing the caravans. Motosuke is a genuinely good guy and a Reasonable Authority Figure who just happens to love guests, and the gold was for the travel expenses, something Akitada didn't even think about.
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  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Akitada's strong sense of justice, stubbornness and inquisitive mind are a major problem for his own career, but that's how he rolls.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Even though he's a lowly clerk, being on Emperor's mission is empowering enough that he is able to hire a wanted criminal (mistaken identity but that's not the point) as a servant and walk around with him in the very region he is being wanted. He also has influential friends willing to help him, too.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Governor Motosuke. Subverted: he hasn't done anything wrong, every problem with his reputation is due to misunderstandings and being framed
  • Year X: Averted. Dragon Scroll takes place in September, 1015. All the other novels are not too far from that date.