Ghost of the Bamboo Road: A Hiro Hattori Novel (A Shinobi Mystery)

Written by Susan Spann
Review by J. Lynn Else

Japan, January 1566: Master ninja Hiro Hattori, Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo, and Mateo’s housekeeper, Ana, are on a secret mission to Edo. They stop at a mountain village for the night. The next morning, a woman’s body is found. Villagers blame it on a vengeful ghost, a yurei, seeking retribution for her untimely demise. Shortly thereafter, money is stolen from the home they’re staying in, and Father Mateo’s housekeeper is blamed. In order to free Ana from punishment, Hiro and Father Mateo start to investigate. When Father Mateo sees a ghostly apparition wandering the village at night and another body is discovered, the two men wonder if the legend of the yurei is more powerful than the mortal answers they seek.

In this seventh book in the Shinobi Mystery series, I’d hoped to feel a deeper bond between the two main characters. There are hints, but it isn’t too strong. Hiro more often seems frustrated with Father Mateo and vice versa. I did find it helpful to have read the previous book, as there are a few mentions of lingering emotions from their last adventure weighing on the relationship.

The atmosphere is engrossing. Spann does a great job making the time period come alive. The customs and environment are skillfully described. The author also does a great job creating a dubious cast of characters, making it difficult for readers to guess the culprit. I quite enjoy reading the Shinobi Mystery series and look forward to more, with their clever plot twists balanced with an engrossing atmosphere. If you like cozy mysteries, this series is for you. An added bonus? Ninjas!