The Ninja’s Daughter
A Shinobi Mystery, Book #4
By Susan Spann
Author’s website: http://www.susanspann.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
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 warlords 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.
The Ninja’s Daughter, the fourth installment in the in finely written Shinobi Mystery series by Susan Spann, brings heroes Hiro and Father Mateo to their most dangerous investigation yet. It is an informative, enjoyable tale of culture and intrigue.
Following the death of the shogun, life for Shinobi Hiro and his charge Father Mateo is getting harder by the day. A merchant apprentice named Jiro arrives at Father Mateo’s home in the early morning hours seeking their help. He has awakened after a night of sake overindulgence to find his love Emi dead on the river banks. He does not think that he committed the crime himself but cannot remember and implores Hiro and the priest to investigate. When the pair arrives at the river, they do indeed find the young woman strangled. However, the local police are claiming there is no crime committed since the girl is the daughter of an actor and thus considered unworthy, even of foul play. Hiro is surprised when they encounter the girl’s “actor” father for he is another shinobi in disguise and has a personal connection to Hiro. Hiro and Father Mateo agree to look into the crime at the behest of the fellow shinobi but must be on their guard since the police have warned them not to investigate and are watching their every move. Thus begins a course of the investigation that will endanger Hiro and Father Mateo (as well as housekeeper Ana and merchant Luis).
I have enjoyed all of the books in the Shinobi Mystery series, and though The Ninja’s Daughter may not be the strongest of the four books so far published, it is still a solid, enjoyable mystery. I always find the sixteenth-century world of Japan infinitely fascinating. Spann does an admirable job of making this foreign culture and tea accessible and understandable. The importance of etiquette and the class system is mind boggling, the subtle meaning of every word, action, and mannerism interesting. Reading Spann’s books are like stepping into a beautiful, conflicting realm of cherry blossoms and katana swords.
The characters are well drawn and continue to grow with each installment. Hiro’s dedication and honor bound code are admirable, and I appreciate his steadfastness and cool head regardless of the situation. My favorite character is probably Father Mateo. We learn more about his past in The Ninja’s Daughter and why he is so drawn to finding justice for Emi. I cried along with him when I read about his sister. The supporting characters, including Ana, the brew master Ginjiro, and the Portuguese arms merchant Luis, bring color to the story. The troupe of actors central to the mystery is varied and add dimension to Hiro’s investigation. The local police are devilishly corrupt, and I looked forward to seeing them get what they deserved.
The mystery surrounding Emi’s death is well thought out and revealed logically bit by bit. Hiro’s discovery of clues is realistic and piecing everything together makes sense. There are plenty of suspects and viable motives, and I kept changing my mind throughout as to the killer’s identity. The reveal is heartbreaking.
I really enjoyed The Ninja’s Daughter and recommend it to fans of historical mysteries, smart heroes, and those interested in feudal Japan.