Blade of the Samurai

Written by Susan Spann
Review by Mary Burns

The second mystery in this series starts with a jolt and keeps up a great pace as we again accompany Hiro and his Jesuit “client” Father Matteo into this fascinating world of 16th-century shogunate Japan. Hiro—and his “mission” to guard the life of the sometimes culturally awkward Jesuit—remains a mystery, but with some intriguing revelations of backstory this time. Why is this expert shinobi assassin assigned as “translator” for the priest, a position which brings him scorn from samurai who see this as a disgrace? In this second episode, Hiro and Father Matteo become involved in solving the murder of a shogunate official, in the shogun’s own compound—accompanied by a command to solve it in three days or take the responsibility on themselves, meaning… execution.

Spann is meticulous about the details but weaves in various aspects of this medieval, foreign culture so skillfully, the reader is never taken out of the story with mere information. Hiro and Father Matteo are a smart and interesting detecting duo, and it’s fun to watch their growing affection for each other, punctuated by the irritations and frustrations that come with the clash of two cultures, worlds apart in every possible way except the pursuit of truth and justice.