About Betrayal at Iga
Series: A Shinobi Mystery
Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Seventh Street Books (July 11, 2017)
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 Hanzo, 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.
About Susan Spann
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
There was a time when the land was ruled by opposing clans, samurai warriors, and kimono-clad shinobis (The Western term is Ninja). A land where loyalty was highly prized, and an oath was kept even if it meant losing one’s own life to keep the promise. Ritual and ceremony are not to be breached. A time when women could be deadly warriors in their own right, yet when entering a room of men, they had to crawl on their knees. Poisoning an enemy was raised to the level of an art form. Everyone was able to adeptly handle a sword, and authority was not questioned.
It is in this setting that we meet the protagonist, Hiro Hatori, a member of the Iga ryu (Translated literally as school. In this context the word is used to denote an association name and as an identifier.) and his client, Portuguese Jesuit priest, Father Mateo Avila de Santos. The year is 1565 and Hiro has a contract to conduct the priest from Kyoto to Yokoseura and to ensure he arrives safely. On the way they must stop in Iga as the head of the clan, his cousin, Hatori Hanzo, has invited him to a dinner in which a delegation from the Koga clan will be coming to discuss the possibility of a treaty.
Suspicion arises from the Koga delegation when Hiro comes to the dinner. According to one of the group, Hiro is Iga’s number 1 assassin. Hatori Honzo assures him that Hiro is Iga’s number two assassin. Not very comforting to the people from Koga. Why would he be invited to the feast? The ceremonial feast welcoming the Koga ryu begins with suspicion and comes to a halt when the head of the 4 person Koga delegation, Yashiro-san, dies most horrifically during the second course of the meal. Immediately swords are drawn and fighting will begin and the visit will be over before any negotiations begin. Each faction is blaming the other for the treachery. A war could be looming on the horizon if the murderer is not found and justice administered.
Hiro and Father Mateo have a reputation for solving mysteries and they are called on to figure out who murdered the dignitary. Both groups allow them 3 days to find the culprit. If he or she is not discovered, the remaining members of the Koga clan will return to their territory and recommend war. Hiro’s mother prepared the food and even though she insists she did not poison the food she may be required to voluntarily surrender her life in atonement.
Three days is not much time and so the pair investigate everyone. Hiro wants to believe his family is not at the bottom of this mess. The clues are misleading and time is running short.
I really enjoyed this novel. The author, Susan Spann, has a degree in Asian studies and loves Japanese history and culture. It is evident throughout the book that the author did her homework. The information in this story was fascinating. I knew very little of ancient Japanese history. The author also kept any 21st century words out of the book, as in when she described how a victim’s blood pools at the lowest point of the body after death. In our day we would use the word livity, but she did not. Instead, in keeping with 16th century jargon she simply stated the blood was pooled. In addition, the plot’s many twist and turns throw suspicion on everyone. I could not put this book down. Fascinating, well-written, complete with interesting Japanese lore, I may have found myself a new series to follow. Rating: 4.5 stars.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me this book to review. I enjoy finding out about authors I haven’t heard of before and reading their offerings. This is definitely a very good book!