The Spring and Autumn Murders is a delightful cozy mystery set in China around 460 BC, the so-called Spring and Autumn Period, hence the title. Well, actually, no, I’m wrong. The title of the book is taken from the Spring and Autumn Analects, a collection of writings attributed to the man we today know as Confucius, who lived during this period.
As the author tells us, this period of time was
during the beginning of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty and was a time of great upheaval and chaos, and Taoism and Confucianism got their start during this period.
We have three amiable young men, soldiers in the Emperor’s army, who are sent to a northern province to help out a beleaguered Magistrate who is dealing with the depredations of encroaching barbarians on his northern border. They are to meet with Magistrate Lord Nianzu and his family to get further instructions.
This being 460 AD, the three soldiers set off on foot, no army jeeps for them!, and finally after a couple of days, reach the village and quarters of Lord Nianzu, where they are invited to dine with the family, consisting of the wife Yin and their only son, and his young wife-to-be.
After the meal, they set off for their duty of patrolling the forest border, and oh! no!, the son is murdered in the middle of the night, a figure is seen escaping through the window, and all suspect Zian, the largest and toughest of the three soldier friends, to be the murderer.
It is a tale of mistaken identity, the hunted and the hunters, healers, and the search for truth and justice.
Lovely characters, interesting mystery, some fine action, nice clear writing style. Although this is categorized for adults, I would highly recommend it to teachers who are trying to get their Young Adult students of any age to read something – anything, because of it’s excellent story line, likeable characters and pleasant, easy writing style.
While it isn’t P. D. James or Agatha Christie, this is a fine example of its own cozy mystery niche.