I.J. Parker, The Convict's SwordPenguin, 2011
Sugawara Akitada, second secretary in the Ministry of Justice faces a number of crises--first in his professional life (his superior hates him), second in his family life (his wife thinks he is neglecting his family in favor of his career), and third in his conception of himself (how does he relate to his responsibilities, including to one dead friend in particular). In the 12th century, Kyoto is facing a smallpox epidemic, Akitada's retainer Tora is suspected of the murder of a street singer, Akitada faces the possibility of dismissal from his position and has to cover for his superior who has fled the city, and he also has to come to terms with his family crises and his feelings of responsibility to his dead friend Haseo. The plot is serviceable, but Akitada can be wearing as a character--he is mercurial (indeed, I wondered sometimes if he might be bi-polar), and much of the heavy lifting is done by others. I remain a fan of this series, but this is far rom the strongest entry.