Betrayal at Iga

Hiro Hattori Novel #5

By Susan Spann


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Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele


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. (Goodreads)



Betrayal at Iga is the meticulously written and vastly entertaining fifth book in the Hiro Hittori Shinobi mystery series.  Full of historical accuracy and a strong sense of time and place, the unlikely investigating duo of Hiro and his charge Father Mateo face their most personal mystery to date.

After barely escaping the Kyota province with their lives (The Ninja’s Daughter), Hiro and Father Mateo find themselves summoned to Hiro’s home province Iga to attend treaty negotiations between rival clans, Iga and Koga.  However, things take a deadly turn when the leader of the Koga emissaries expires during dinner, obviously the victim of poison.  In a room full of opposing assassins, there is no shortage of suspects.  Could Hiro’s cousin Hanzo, the leader of Iga, have ordered one his own to murder Yajiro?  These suspects hit Hiro a little too close to home since they include his mother, grandmother, and former lover.  Could one of Yajiro’s own entourage be responsible for his untimely end?  Hiro and Father Mateo are given three days to unmask the guilty party.  If they fail to meet their deadline, the peace treaty efforts with fall apart, thus starting a war.  In addition, Hiro’s mother Midori has agreed to take the blame, and Hiro just cannot allow that.  With the clans near battling over who will be the next shogun, and the personal ramifications of the mystery, Hiro and Father Mateo are desperate to find the truth.

I really enjoyed Betrayal at Iga.  It might even be my favorite of the series to date.  There is a much greater sense of urgency this time around with so much more at stake for Hiro and his family.  We get a much more personal look at Hiro since the action takes place in his home province.  I relished getting a peek at his family home, meeting his mother and grandmother, and watching as he deals with the ghosts of his past concerning his former lover’s betrayal.  We still do not know who the mysterious benefactor who funds Hiro’s protection of the Portuguese priest is, but I think we are getting much closer to a revelation.  Hiro and Father Mateo have settled into a true friendship at this point, and I adore their repartee.  They make an unusual team, but it feels right.  The contrasts of their respective cultures serve as advantages as they look at the puzzle before them from different perspectives.

Spann’s love of Japanese history and culture shines in her concise, informative writing.  The style is somewhat spare, beautiful and fascinatingly edifying.  Spann’s punctilious research and attention to detail combine with strong characters and a solid mystery to make a thoroughly enjoyable read.  Recommended to fans of historical mysteries and fiction, lovers of Japanese culture, and those looking for a unique detective team.