cover image Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery

Claws of the Cat: A Shinobi Mystery

Susan Spann. Minotaur, $24.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-250-02702-3

Spann matches period detail with a well-developed whodunit plot in her promising debut, the first in a new series set in 16th-century Japan. Fr. Mateo Ávila de Santos, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary, and Matsui Hiro, the shinobi (or ninja) dedicated to protecting the priest’s life, come to the aid of Sayuri, a female entertainer of 16, after she’s accused of fatally stabbing retired general Akechi Hideyoshi in a teahouse. Sayuri, a recent Christian convert, was found beside the general’s corpse with blood on her kimono. The victim’s policeman son, Nobuhide, vows to execute Father Mateo and the girl if he and Hiro can’t prove Sayuri’s innocence within two days. Spann is especially good at showing how the Jesuit learns to ask questions indirectly to gain information the Japanese witnesses would not otherwise provide. Spann’s not yet at the level of Japanese historical mystery authors I.J. Parker and Laura Joh Rowland, but she’s well on her way. Agent: Sandra Bond, Bond Literary Agency. (July)