cover image Blade of the Samurai: A Shinobi Mystery

Blade of the Samurai: A Shinobi Mystery

Susan Spann. Minotaur, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-02705-4

Spann’s second whodunit set in 16th-century Japan falls short of the standard set by her debut, Claws of the Cat (2013). Ito Kazu needs the help of his friend and fellow clansman, Matsui Hiro, a shinobi (ninja) assassin turned bodyguard. At the shogun’s palace in Kyoto, someone has fatally stabbed the shogun’s senior clerk and second cousin, Ashikaga Saburo, with Kazu’s dagger. That Kazu, ostensibly Saburo’s assistant, had been working as a spy makes his situation even more perilous. Fr. Mateo Ávila de Santos, the Jesuit priest whom Hiro protects, joins the investigation, but one of the shogun’s top aides, samurai Matsunaga Hisahide, gives the pair only three days to solve Saburo’s murder. Spann did a better job of conveying the politics of the time in the previous book, and both the intrigue and the detecting are below the level of Laura Joh Rowland’s series set in 18th-century Japan. Agent: Sandra Bond, Bond Literary Agency. (July)