A Passel of Teeny Reviews, Part 6 @nancyjcohen @JSpencerFleming @MinotaurBooks @CharlesFinch @BevLongBooks @HarlequinBooks @SusanSpann @SeventhStBooks

Once again, big surprise, I find myself with
an overload of books read but not yet reviewed
so I think it’s time for a roundup or two…

Easter Hair Hunt
A Bad Day Hair Mysteries #16
Nancy J. Cohen
Orange Grove Press, March 2020
ISBN 978-09997932-7-5
Trade Paperback

Marla Vail is visiting Tremayne Manor to do her hairstyling thing for Blinky Morris so she’ll be ready for the Easter egg hunt but, after the hunt when Marla is helping to look for unfound eggs, she finds something else, a dead body dressed as a bunny. When it’s discovered that Blinky is missing, the very pregnant Marla jumps right in to investigate,  as fans will expect. Her poor husband, homicide detective Dalton, is right by her side, knowing full well he can’t stop her.

Marla is a character that becomes more appealing with each adventure, largely because she’s an intelligent woman who takes things in stride and doesn’t continually do stupid things. Dalton is her equal and recognizes how good she is at sussing out the facts and following leads; he long ago gave up trying to keep her out of investigations and the pair make a good team. This time, they’re dealing with a plethora of clues and suspects and the twists and turns abound. I’ve followed this series from the beginning and I’m already anticipating the next book because Ms. Cohen never lets me down 🙂

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Hid from Our Eyes
A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery #9
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Minotaur Books, April 2020
ISBN 978-0-312-60685-5
Hardcover

It seems like years since the last Clare and Russ story because, well, it has been and when I first heard about this one, I was SO excited. I’m not the least bit surprised that Ms. Spencer-Fleming is still at the top of her game.

Three different but very similar cases over a period of many decades have involved three police chiefs but Russ, the current chief, was once accused of the second killing. As this third case ramps up, Russ is under enormous pressure to find the killer before suspicion focuses on him again. Are the three cases really connected in some way or could there be a copycat killer? Who were these young women and why were they targeted or is it possible one or more were, in fact, not murdered?

Russ’s wife, an Episcopal priest and mother of a new baby, has her own issues going on but of course she’s going to help Russ and she brings a lot of intelligence and creative thinking to this case, as she always does. The personal lives of Clare and Russ are given as much weight as the investigation, enough so that I felt like I was seeing old friends again but that didn’t take anything away from the mystery of these three deaths. Leads take them in all directions and I was forced—forced, I tell you!—to stay up late into the night to keep reading. An intriguing plot and great characters make for a story I can heartily recommend but readers new to the series will enjoy it more by starting with the first one.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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The Vanishing Man
A Charles Lenox Mystery #12
Charles Finch
Minotaur Books, January 2020
ISBN 978-1-250-31137-5
Trade Paperback

In this second prequel, Charles Lenox has recently become known as the young man who bested Scotland Yard in a perplexing case and he’s called upon by the Duke of Dorset to help with an art theft. It seems a second painting was left behind and the Duke is concerned the thieves will return and, if they do, it’s possible a family scandal will be revealed as well as an enormous secret involving a priceless artifact. It isn’t long before there are other crimes and Lenox must delve into long-kept secrets that threaten the family as well as himself.

Fortunately, Lenox has the assistance of his friend, Lady Jane, who once again proves herself to be an intelligent ally, and a coterie of secondary players who bring real depth to the story. This particular adventure drags a little here and there but it’s still an engaging puzzle, especially the question of why the more valuable painting really means so much to the Duke. Mr. Finch brings Victorian London and its people to life again and I really do think this is one of the very best series with the setting and time period.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ten Days Gone
An A.L. McKittridge Novel #1
Beverly Long
MIRA, February 2020
ISBN 978-0-7783-0958-1
Mass Market Paperback

Hunting a serial killer is no doubt one of the most difficult things a police department may ever have to do but, this time, detectives Rena Morgan and A.L. McKittridge are also faced with the nearly impossible task of preventing a fifth murder once the likely victim has been identified. Tess Lyons already suffers psychological damage from previous events and is anything but ready to understand her present danger. Meanwhile, leads in the case are sketchy at best and the detectives are caught up in a cat and mouse game with few obvious answers until they find a petition signed by all four of the murdered women. Figuring out why the petition and the ten day intervals are important may be their best chance to stop this killer.

A.L. and Rena are a well-matched partnership, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and they complement each other in their search for a wily killer. The pacing is a little slow but Ten Days Gone shows promise and is the first in what I hope will be a long-running series.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

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Ghost of the Bamboo Road
A Hiro Hattori Novel #7
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, November 2019
ISBN 978-1-6338-8550-9
Trade Paperback

Even in 16th-century Japan, a list of agents, in this case the shinobi agents of Hiro Hattori’s own clan, can cause deadly problems if it falls into the wrong hands. Hiri needs to warn his clan that a rival warlord is in possession of the list so he travels to a small village where he believes a fellow agent to be on a mission. Accompanied by Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit he protects, along with their housekeeper, Ana, and Hiro’s cat, Gato, he sees that the agent is missing. Hiro and Father Mateo are then drawn in to the investigation of multiple murders that are believed to have been caused by a ghost in the eerily half-deserted village but the situation becomes even more pressing when Ana is accused of stealing from the inn’s proprietor. And where is the missing agent?

Ms. Spann never fails to entertain me and educate me as well since her stories are full of medieval Japanese history. I love the primary characters and their interactions with each other; for instance, Gato always manages to get in the thick of things but Father Mateo can only suffer around him, being highly allergic. The two men have grown to be quite fond of each other (not that they would say so) and the priest accepts the shinobi’s protection as gracefully as he can manage while Ana is irascible and, yet, attentive. The author has a way with words and conveys the times and the setting vividly, so much so that I can practically smell the tea served in the teahouse. My only regret after reading this entry is for the too-long wait for the next book.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

Book Review: Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann—and a Giveaway!

Trial on Mount Koya
A Hiro Hattori Novel #6
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, July 2018
ISBN 978-1-6338-8415-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

November, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo travel to a Buddhist temple at the summit of Mount Koya, carrying a secret message for an Iga spy posing as a priest on the sacred mountain. When a snowstorm strikes the peak, a killer begins murdering the temple’s priests and posing them as Buddhist judges of the afterlife–the Kings of Hell. Hiro and Father Mateo must unravel the mystery before the remaining priests–including Father Mateo–become unwilling members of the killer’s grisly council of the dead.

Anyone who is a fan of Agatha Christie will recognize the tip of the hat this book is to her And Then There Were None with the isolated setting and the killer who picks off the victims one at a time and that really adds an element of fun to the story. This unusual pair of sleuths—a Portuguese Jesuit priest and his shinobi companion/bodyguard—have come to this remote temple because Hiro has been ordered to deliver a message to an Iga spy but they soon find themselves looking for a murderer among the monks and a couple of visitors. Although each investigation these two have conducted has its own peculiarities, this time Hiro is off-center, partly because of a personal sorrow but also because he comes to believe his friend may be in real jeopardy.

Along with the investigation, we also learn a little about the Buddhist religion in the 16th century and why the killer might be posing his victims, one by one, as the judges of the afterlife. The juxtaposition of the Buddhist tenets with those of a Catholic priest is striking and sheds more light on the relationship between Hiro and Father Mateo, two men who are vastly different and yet so respectful of each other. Each brings a unique perspective to the investigation and they are made even more interesting by their positions in feudal Japanese society.

Ms. Spann, as I’ve come to expect, creates vivid settings—her ability to evoke a visual understanding of the surroundings is full of the small details that bring them to life—and her characters are so fully fleshed out as to make our sleuths seem like people we actually know. It’s not just the two investigators that draw the attention, though; others are just as memorable, such as their housekeeper, Ana (a favorite of mine from earlier books).

Wonderful use of atmospheric language, very appealing players and an intriguing plot make Trial on Mount Koya another brilliant entry in this series I’ve come to love. Hiro and Father Mateo are among my very favorite historical investigators and I can barely wait for their next adventure, Ghost of the Bamboo Road, due out later this year.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2019.

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Re-issue/New Cover Reveal

Claws of the Cat
A Hiro Hattori Novel
A Shinobi Mystery, Book 1

A master ninja and a Portuguese priest investigate the murder of a samurai in medieval Kyoto. May 1564: When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro has no desire to get involved. But the beautiful entertainer accused of the crime enlists the help of Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit Hiro is sworn to protect, leaving the master shinobi with just three days to find the killer in order to save the girl and the priest from execution. The investigation plunges Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they learn that everyone from the elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai’s death a mystery. A rare murder weapon favored by ninja assassins, a female samurai warrior, and a hidden affair leave Hiro with too many suspects and far too little time. Worse, the ninja’s investigation uncovers a host of secrets that threaten not only Father Mateo and the teahouse, but the very future of Japan.

Re-issued by Seventh Street Books, April 23, 2019.

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Giveaway

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment
below. There will be two winners. One
winner will receive a trade paperback copy
of Trial on Mount Koya and the second
winner will receive a trade paperback copy
of the re-issued Claws of the Cat. The drawing
will be held on the evening of Thursday,
April 25th and is open to the US and Canada.

Book Review: Betrayal at IGA by Susan Spann—and a Giveaway!

Betrayal at IGA
A Hiri Hattori Novel #5
A Shinobi Mystery
Susan Spann
Seventh Street Books, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-6338-8277-5
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Autumn, 1565: After fleeing Kyoto, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo take refuge with Hiro’s ninja clan in the mountains of Iga province. But when an ambassador from the rival Koga clan is murdered during peace negotiations, Hiro and Father Mateo must find the killer in time to prevent a war between the ninja clans.

With every suspect a trained assassin, and the evidence incriminating not only Hiro’s commander, the infamous ninja Hattori Hanzō, but also Hiro’s mother and his former lover, the detectives must struggle to find the truth in a village where deceit is a cultivated art. As tensions rise, the killer strikes again, and Hiro finds himself forced to choose between his family and his honor.

One of the most delightful private eye duos is back! I know it’s only been a year since their last appearance but it seemed like eons because I love them so much.

Hiro and Father Mateo are a most unusual pair, this Japanese shinobi and Portuguese priest that are linked together by contract. Hiro was assigned the task of protecting the Jesuit from all the dangers that can befall a foreigner in the midst of feudal Japan and he has done so with honor and careful attention to the things that could get Father Mateo in trouble. A very large pitfall is the culture and societal demands of this world of shoguns and samurais and Hiro is particularly concerned that the priest understand how to behave as they approach Iga, Hiro’s home. It’s Father Mateo’s first visit and Hiro himself hasn’t been home in some time.

Adding to the potential problem is the enormous tension that’s palpable in the feasting room when they arrive slightly late. A group of delegates from the Koga clan has come, supposedly to seek common ground with the Hattori clan to prevent war but at least one in the visiting group is overtly hostile and suspicious. Fuyu’s attitude of extreme distrust seems warranted when another member of his clan falls over, clearly dying from poison moments after beginning the feast.

In what is essentially a locked room mystery, in this case a locked compound, Fuyu immediately accuses the Hattori clan of murder and hostilities escalate until this room full of trained assassins are all prepared to kill each other. Hattori Hanzo, host and commander, suggests that Hiro and Father Mateo be appointed to solve the crime and bring the killer to justice but they have only three days to do so. The prime suspect? Midori, the woman who prepared the feast, Hiro’s mother.

This entry in the series is my favorite so far for a lot of reasons. Emotions run high, the tension is at breaking point and the pressure on Father Mateo and Hiro has never been so intense but we also get a good look at Hiro’s background and family, the forces that made him who he is. Family and an old love are at the core of the story and the closed community of medieval Japan is immensely interesting but, as always with this pair, the investigation is enlightening in many ways, especially considering the lack of modern-day crime solving forensics. The intriguing 16th-century setting and Ms. Spann’s knowledge of the era and place are the icing on the cake for this addition to my list of best books read in 2017.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million
Amazon // Indiebound // Seventh Street Books

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About the Author

Susan 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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Follow the tour:

Monday, July 10th: Suzy Approved – author guest post
Tuesday, July 11th: In Bed With Books
Thursday, July 13th: Clues & Reviews
Monday, July 17th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, July 18th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, July 19th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, July 20thBuried Under Books
Monday, July 24thWrite Read Life
Tuesday, July 25thAll Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Wednesday, July 26thMama Vicky Says
Thursday, July 27thPatricia’s Wisdom
Friday, July 28thHoser’s Blook
Monday, July 31stBewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, August 1stA Dream Within a Dream
Wednesday, August 2ndJathan & Heather
Thursday, August 3rdOpen Book Society
Friday, August 4thBook Dilettante

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To enter the drawing for a
print copy of Betrayal at Iga
by Susan Spann, just leave

a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Monday
night, July 24th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

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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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Pre-order Links:

Barnes & Noble // Books-A-Million // Kobo

Amazon // IndieBound // Seventh Street Books

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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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Follow the tour:

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

a comment below. The winning
name will be drawn on Thursday
night, July 28th. This drawing is open
to residents of the US and Canada.

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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Purchase Links:

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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 Button     Twitter Button     Facebook Button     Goodreads Button 2

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Book Review: Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

Blade of the Samurai Tour Banner

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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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Purchase Links:

Amazon UK  //  Amazon US //  Barnes & Noble  // 
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.

READ AN EXCERPT

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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Follow the tour:

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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Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours