Book Review – BLADE OF THE SAMURAI by Susan Spann

Blade of the Samurai Synopsis:

Blade of the Samurai by Susan SpannJune, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the shogun’’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor.

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time . . . or die in his place.

Susan Spann’s Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in sixteenth-century Japan. (Minotaur Books)


Susan Spann’s Blade of the Samurai was a very enjoyable reading experience.

It’s 16th century Japanese setting was sufficiently different to capture my interest and Spann’s contextual explanations of social hierarchy were informative without becoming overbearing.

Her mild-mannered yet innately confident protagonist Hiro really appealed to me, but perhaps not for the reasons one might expect. His narrative voice seemed refreshingly at odds with his reserved exterior, and what I would expect from a character in that position in that time period. That could in itself be considered a weakness of this novel, but for me it engendered a cosy mystery feel. I particularly enjoyed some of the sarcastic under currents, Shinobi style.

“Now you tell me.”
Hiro found the sarcasm encouraging.
Dying men didn’t usually display a functional grasp of irony.

Blade of the Samurai is not a gritty literary thriller – the plot is too straight forward for that – but Spann’s prose, and in particular the dialogue, is high quality. In this Shinobi Mystery series she’s developed an eclectic core character set with heart and substance that readers will engage with.

A cosy mystery with a difference, Blade of the Samurai is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

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BOOK DETAILS: Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann ( Booktopia | Kobobooks | Book Depository | Amazon  )

Genre: Mystery, Crime-Detective, Historical

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Author Information: Susan Spann acquired her love of books and reading during her preschool days in Santa Monica, California. As a child she read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest. When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, online gaming, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her highly distracting marine aquarium. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Other reviews of Blade of the Samurai : Kirkus Reviews ; Publishers Weekly ; Aimie K Runyan ; Staircase Wit

* My receiving an ebook copy of this title from the publisher for review purposes in no way hindered the expression of my honest opinions in the above.