Book Review: The Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann—and a Giveaway!

The Ninja's DaughterThe Ninja’s Daughter
A Hiro Hattori Novel #4

A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, August 2016
ISBN 978-1-63388-181-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival samurai threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

Each time I read a new book in Susan Spann’s series featuring a pair of most unusual private investigators, I find more to like and that’s the case this time, too. Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori have completely solidified their status among my very favorite sleuths. A more likeable and appealing duo would be hard to find.

Also, once again, Ms. Spann has broadened my knowledge of the culture and mores of 16th-century Japan, most especially in the way class distinctions were viewed. I doubt that today’s actors would appreciate knowing that the murder of one of their own would evoke absolutely no interest or concern in the eyes of the law but that’s the rigidity of the class system in place at the time. When the Kyoto police consider that the clearly murdered Emi was not murdered simply because no one cares about an actor’s daughter, the Portuguese Jesuit priest is understandably outraged. His samurai companion, on the other hand, discovers an even more compelling reason to investigate, quietly and, he hopes, without alerting the authorities.

Political machinations are also at play and I find this aspect of the series, and this book, to be just as interesting as the murder investigation. I always learn something when I read one of these books and, in The Ninja’s Daughter, I picked up bits about the particular kind of Japanese theater called Noh as well as the societal class distinctions, not to mention some of Hiro’s own family history and, of course, there’s a cracking good mystery and highly intelligent sleuthing.

A cast of characters and a glossary of Japanese words are highlights and make this even more enjoyable while secondary characters Ana, Luis and Gato feel like family to me as they must to the priest and the shinobi. A reader new to the series will be comfortable starting mid-stream since the author gives enough background information to allow the book to work as a standalone.

I had a hard time sleeping while I was reading because I just didn’t want to put it down. Susan Spann has one of the very best historical mystery series being written today and The Ninja’s Daughter has earned a spot on my list of favorite books read in 2016. I’m already anticipating Hiro’s and Father Mateo’s next adventure.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2016.

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About the Author

Susan Spann 2Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

Connect with Susan

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Monday, July 25thBuried Under Books
Tuesday, July 26thReading Reality
Tuesday, July 26th:Book Dilettante
Wednesday, July 27thIn Bed With Books
Thursday, July 28thWorth Getting in Bed For
Friday, July 29thWordsmithonia
Friday, July 29thWrite Read Life
Monday, August 1stHoser’s Blook
Tuesday, August 2ndLavish Bookshelf
Wednesday, August 3rdNo More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, August 4thA Holland Reads
Tuesday, August 9thOpen Book Society
Thursday, August 11thLuxury Reading
Friday, August 12thSJ2B House of Books
Monday, August 15thBooks and Tea
Monday, August 15thMusings of a Bookish Kitty
Tuesday, August 16thA Fantastical Librarian
Wednesday, August 17thBroken Teepee

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To enter the drawing for a
print copy of Claws of the Cat,
first book in the Shinobi Mystery
series
by Susan Spann, just leave

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name will be drawn on Thursday
night, July 28th. This drawing is open
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Book Review: Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann

Flask of the Drunken MasterFlask of the Drunken Master
A Shinobi Mystery #3
Susan Spann
Minotaur Books, July 2015
ISBN 978-1-250-02706-1
Hardcover

From the publisher—

August 1565: When a rival artisan turns up dead outside Ginjiro’s brewery, and all the evidence implicates the brewer, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo must find the killer before the magistrate executes Ginjiro and seizes the brewery, leaving his wife and daughter destitute. A missing merchant, a vicious debt collector, and a female moneylender join Ginjiro and the victim’s spendthrift son on the suspect list. But with Kyoto on alert in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, a rival shinobi on the prowl, and samurai threatening Hiro and Father Mateo at every turn, Ginjiro’s life is not the only one in danger.

Will Hiro and Father Mateo unravel the clues in time to save Ginjiro’s life, or will the shadows gathering over Kyoto consume the detectives as well as the brewer?

I first made the acquaintance of two fine gentlemen, Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo, just about a year ago when I read Blade of the Samurai and promptly fell in love with them and with their regard for each other. As private investigators in 16th-century Japan, they are very different from our contemporary sleuths and, yet, they are also much the same. What endears them to me is their relationship. Separately, they are each very intelligent and knowledgeable in their respective fields but, together, they become a true team and each one clearly cares a great deal for the other. The Portuguese Jesuit frequently blunders his way through the cultural quagmire of this foreign country and the ninja annoys the priest with his willingness to occasionally stretch the truth to reach a goal but they still look after one another as friends do.

Class distinctions are very evident in their current case with the vast separation between the Samurai and the lowest of the low. The Samurai are also embroiled in the struggle for power following the events of the previous book and this infuses the investigation into the death of a local brewer. It’s especially interesting that a theme common in today’s criminal inquiries—follow the money—is just as prominent in medieval times.

The mystery to be solved in Flask of the Drunken Master is every bit as engaging and puzzling as in the earlier book and, despite the violence that imbues the shogunate society, it will appeal to all but the most hardcore cozy reader because, in an odd manner, there’s a gentleness to it. Actually, in some ways, this series reminds me of the fellow with the “little grey cells”; Hiro and Mateo are much more likely to use their minds than their brawn.

All in all, Ms. Spann has once again offered us a corker of a story and I enjoyed every minute I spent with the priest and the ninja. I just wish I had their next adventure waiting for me to step into right now.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2015.

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About the Author

Susan Spann 2Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

Connect with Susan

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Book Review: Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

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Title: Blade of the Samurai
Series: A Shinobi Mystery
Author: Susan Spann
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
Genre: Historical Mystery

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Praise for Blast of the Samurai

“The second Hiro Hattori mystery (after 2013’s Claws of the Cat)
finds the sixteenth-century ninja—and unofficial investigator—
presented with an interesting problem…A strong second
entry in a very promising series.”—Booklist

“Hiro and Father Mateo’s second adventure (Claws of the Cat, 2013)
combines enlightenment on 16th-century Japanese life with a sharp
and well-integrated mystery.”—Kirkus Reveiws

Goodreads

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Book Depository  //  Indigo  //  IndieBound  // 
Powell’s  //  WalMart  // 

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Blade of the SamuraiBlade of the Samurai
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Minotaur Books, July 2014
ISBN 978-1-250-02705-4
Hardcover

From the publisher—

June, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the Shogun’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the Shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the Shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor.

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the Shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the Shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the Shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the Shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time … or die in his place.

Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in 16th century Japan.

Book One of the Shinobi Mysteries series, Claws of the Cat, was released in 2013.

Sixteenth-century feudal Japan is an exotic setting in a fascinating age for Westerners. Of course, we had our own feudal period but the cultural differences between West and East at that time were dramatic. In some ways, the medieval Japanese were more brutal, such as in the concept that a criminal’s family could suffer the same punishment in addition to, or in place of, the actual criminal. On the other hand, they placed far more emphasis than Westerners did on proper behavior.

Such is the setting of Blade of the Samurai and it is so different from our customary mystery fare that it could be a distraction from the story if the author were not so adept at her craft. Susan Spann weaves her tale in with the time and place masterfully, creating a puzzle that seems almost gentle at times while dealing with warlords and spies and noble warriors whose mere look could stop a commoner in his tracks. Hiro is a remarkable man of high intelligence and infinite patience, especially when confronted with Father Mateo’s frequent lapses of proper manners. Both men are clearly fond of each other and they work together seamlessly and with quiet humor when called upon to solve crimes, this time the murder of the shogun’s cousin. What makes this case more urgent and personal is that they may pay the price themselves if they don’t identify the murderer.

Ms. Spann has developed a plot rife with suspects and potential motives that shows her own comfort with the history of the period and I thoroughly enjoyed learning a bit of history. Even more, her characters are so lifelike that I could almost see them standing before me. Hiro and Father Mateo stand out but others, particularly Kazu, Akira and a young boy named Ichiro  are just as vibrant. If I have any complaint at all, it’s that I often wished for a cast of characters because I found some of them a little difficult to remember, I’m sure because the Japanese names are unfamiliar.

Concocting a complicated mystery with dynamic players is hard enough; doing so in a well-researched historical period makes it something special. I’m  motivated now to go back and read the first Shinobi Mystery while I wait for the third.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2014.

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About the Author

 

Susan Spann 1Susan Spann acquired her love of books and reading during her preschool days in Santa Monica, California. As a child she read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest. When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, online gaming, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her highly distracting marine aquarium. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Monday, July 7
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, July 8
Review at Closed the Cover

Wednesday, July 9
Review at Staircase Wit
Guest Post & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Thursday, July 10
Review at Booklover Book Reviews

Monday, July 14
Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, July 16
Review at Buried Under Books

Thursday, July 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary (Claws of the Cat)
Spotlight at Reviews by Molly

Friday, July 18
Review at History Undressed

Monday, July 21
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Tuesday, July 22
Review at Judith Starkston
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, July 23
Review at The True Book Addict

Thursday, July 24
Interview at Layered Pages

Monday, July 28
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, July 29
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, July 30
Review at Princess of Eboli

Thursday, July 31
Review at A Fantastical Librarian

Friday, August 1
Review at Reading the Ages

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