Sunday, July 8, 2018

Susan Spann, The Ninja’s Daughter

Susan Spann, The Ninja’s Daughter
Seventh Street Books
© 2016 Susan Spann

I’ve commented before that Spann has done an excellent job of creating what appears to me (I am not an expert, but have read a fair amount) of creating an accurate and believable setting (the late 1500s, in Japan).  It was a period of political (and thus military) upheaval, and for the upper classes in particular, a tie of immense uncertainty.  (There’s what appears to be an excellent wikipedia article covering the period:

And that political upheaval becomes more salient in The Ninja’s Daughter, the fourth entry in her series about Hiro (a shinoba, hired to protect the Portuguese missionary Father Mateo).  Jiro, apprentice to the moneylender Basho, calls on Mateo very early in the morning, seeing his assistance.  He fears he has killed a young woman whom, he met by the river that night, but he was drunk and hopes that he is not the murderer.  Hiro wants to stay out of what is likely to be a messy situation, but Mateo, reluctant to see a possibly innocent person condemned without strong evidence, feels bound to look into it.  The investigation proves to be extremely difficult, as the approach of an army is leading to restrictions on movement even within Kyoto.  And it’s made even more difficult because what passes for the local police refuse to look into it—because the dead woman is merely a commoner, and thus of no importance.

The woman (whose name is Emi), it turns out, is a member of an acting troop (one of the daughters of one of the actors).  And in order to determine exactly how, and why, she died, Mateo must convince Hiro that he intends to investigate, regardless of how the authorities and how Hiro himself feel about the matter.

The investigation is inherently difficult, and made more difficult by the political situation (which leads many people to leave Kyoto for the (relative) safety of the countryside.  With Hiro’s reluctant assistance, Mateo has to untangle the relationships within the troop, including the arranged marriages of the younger members of the troop.  And then there’s the issue of the provenance, and importance, of a golden coin…

This series just keeps getting better, but it is likely to work best if read in order.  And I would strongly encourage seeking out the first three books in the series:
Claws of the Cat
Blade of the Samurai
Flask of the Drunken Master

as well as the two which follow The Ninja’s Daughter:
Betrayal At Iga (2017)
Trial on Mt, Koya

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