I was actually looking for a new Sherlock Holmes pastiche to read when I came across this title. I didn't quite know what to expect when I purchased the book, but it certainly sounded interesting -- plus, it was free at the time. It has since reverted to costing money, but I assure you, it's more than worth the 99 cent price. It was a wonderful surprise and a most exciting discovery for me.
"The Ennin Mysteries: The Cursed Temple" is, as the book description says, a novel about the 'Sherlock Holmes' of Japan's feudal era. Ennin, renowned throughout Japan for his legendary powers of deduction, is clearly a Holmes-like figure and Kukai, his faithful servant (who narrates the adventure) is very similar to Watson, who never quite understands what his companion is up to, but follows him faithfully nonetheless. Without being any kind of copy, this story reads very much like a Holmes pastiche. Holmes fans will immediately recognize elements of "The Adventure of The Devil's Foot" just from the official book description, but this is a completely original story that takes on a vibrant life of its own.
Six months separate the incidents, but two Buddhist monks at the same provincial temple have been found dead with expressions of terror and revulsion on their faces. Although the area is quite remote, Ennin and his servant happen to be staying at a local inn at the time of the second death, and are called in to investigate why the two monks should have died in such an appalling manner. While investigating the deaths, Ennin notices various riddles scattered around the temple. The monks have always mistakenly believed that these riddles are koans, but Ennin realizes that the riddles actually have practical applications. When he ties the true purpose of the riddles to the deaths of the two monks, his life and the life of Kukai come into deadly danger, because the murderer has been trying to interpret the riddles as well, though solely for his own twisted purposes.
The author lives in Japan. He has actually lived and worked in a feudal Japanese temple. (See Buddha's Breakfast: Adventures at a 16th Century Japanese Temple). Whether you're interested in elements of life in feudal Japan, in Buddhism, or just want a really good murder mystery to while away an hour or two, here's the book for you. After you read it, spend some time at the author's amazon page. He has written an amazing variety of books, all well worth a look.
Excitingly, "The Cursed Temple" is just the first book in a new series. I am very much looking forward to the next one.