I received this book for free from the TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Betrayal at Iga by Susan Spann
Series: Shinobi Mystery #5
on July 11, 2017
Genres: Adult, Historical, Mystery
Source: TLC Book Tours
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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.
I love mysteries of all kinds, and Betrayal at Iga is the first mystery that I’ve read that was set in 1500s Japan. While the author does write with quite a bit of historical accuracy when it comes to naming conventions and terms for that era, Susan Spann’s writing doesn’t feel too dated in flow and emotional situations between characters. Luckily there is a handy cast of characters and glossary at the back of the book to keep track of the various terms and to keep a few of the names straight that were confusing–especially the two women whose names were short and sounded alike. Coming into this fifth installment in the Shinobi Mystery series, I wasn’t sure of what to expect from a genre that I don’t normally read, and I was pleasantly surprised while reading the exploits of master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo.
Hiro Hattori is essentially the paid bodyguard for Father Mateo, and there’s an ongoing mystery of who is exactly the benefactor that is paying to protect this priest and why. Hiro is called back to his home province of Iga for treaty negotiations between his ninja clan and the rival Koga clan, but things quickly go wrong when a member of the Koga delegation is poisoned at the first dinner they share. Since neither clan trusts each other and word of Hiro and Mateo’s crime solving has proceeded them from Kyoto, the Koga clan will only have the outsider Mateo investigate the murder for three days before the blame the death on the Iga–and a war will result.
Since this is the fifth book, Hiro and Mateo have such an ease between them that I really enjoyed their friendship and back and forths. When I started reading, I thought that I was missing out on some things by not reading the other books, but the author did answer a lot of my questions throughout all of the characters’ interactions together as the book went along. I would definitely say that you don’t have to read the previous novels to enjoy Betrayal at Iga, but I am curious to see how Hiro and Father Mateo got their start together.
Hiro is a brave ninja, but he has been away from his clan for quite some time protecting Mateo. I really loved seeing him interact with his grandmother, mother, and ex-girlfriend–who are all dangerous assassins in their own rights. Hiro’s cousin Hanzo is the leader of the Iga clan, and the two men always don’t see eye to eye on things. But Hiro has pledged his loyalty to the Iga school, as has his mother and grandmother did many years before, so they are all duty bound to do as Hanzo commands. Father Mateo is so open and frank that he doesn’t see the danger in being that way in a town full of assassins, but he can also talk his way out of a lot of situations with a bit of a calm sermon. Hiro and Mateo work so well together, they make a great team.
I give Betrayal at Iga a four out of five. I really loved reading about the traditions and culture of 1500s Japan mixed in with the story of Hiro and Mateo as the hunted for the real murderer, especially with someone so special to Hiro’s life on the line. The glossary was a handy addition at the back of the book until I got the terminology down, although it brought me out of the story a bit each time I had to fast forward my Kindle to the back of the book. There were two women’s names that were very similar that I kept confusing as well, but otherwise it takes just a bit to get used to Japanese naming conventions to keep the characters straight in your head. I really loved the pacing and short chapters, which made this book fly by quickly. The mystery wasn’t straight forward at all or easily guessable, so taking the same journey with Hiro and Matteo was fun as the ferreted out the poisoner/murderer.
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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.
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Susan Spann’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for BETRAYAL AT IGA:
Monday, July 10th: Suzy Approved – author guest post
Thursday, July 13th: Clues & Reviews
Monday, July 17th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, July 18th: Broken Teepee
Wednesday, July 19th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, July 20th: Buried Under Books
Monday, July 24th: Write Read Life
Tuesday, July 25th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Wednesday, July 26th: Mama Vicky Says
Thursday, July 27th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Friday, July 28th: Hoser’s Blook
Monday, July 31st: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, August 1st: A Dream Within a Dream
Wednesday, August 2nd: Jathan & Heather
Thursday, August 3rd: Open Book Society
Friday, August 4th: Book Dilettante
TBD: In Bed With Books