Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele
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 Portuguese 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. (Goodreads)
Blade of the Samurai is a magnificent portal back in time to sixteenth century Japan. Here we find Hiro, a ninja working undercover as Jesuit priest Father Mateo’s translator, called upon by the shogun to find the murderer responsible for the shogun’s cousin’s death. Suspicion initially falls on Kazu, Hiro’s fellow undercover shinobi, and Hiro himself cannot help but question his friend’s innocence. However, as he investigates, the story becomes more and more complex as suspects and motives are revealed – the wife of the deceased, his mistress, the shogunate’s stable master and his apprentice, and a master carpenter are all plausible. As the body count mounts, so does the sense of urgency for resolution. A secondary plot involves the planned assassination of the shogun. The mystery is complex without being confusing and comes to a satisfying conclusion. There are a couple of surprises revealed at the end (not really pertaining to the mystery) that had me wanting to go back and reread bits to see if I had missed a clue.
This is the second book in the Shinobi Mystery Series, and though I think I would have benefited from reading the earlier installment first, I found this to be fine as a stand-alone novel. I do plan to add the first book to my to-read list. Spann writes in a rather spare style, but it flows beautifully and is full of imagery like the beauty of Japan itself. She obviously has great knowledge of and love for Japan’s history. She does a fine job of educating the reader in the ways of Japanese culture and class rules with deft ability, avoiding turning it into a dry history lesson. She creates a fascinating world full of real characters and political intrigue. I enjoyed all of the characters, but particularly Hiro, Father Mateo, and Ichuro. I look forward to their continuing adventures and the unraveling of their pasts. Hiro’s growing friendship with Father Mateo is atypical for a shinobi, and it displays an unusual vulnerability that I want to see play out.
I thoroughly enjoyed this historical mystery and recommend it to those who also enjoy historical settings, especially Japan.
*OBS would like to thank the author and TLC Book Tours for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review as part of their ongoing blog tour*