Wednesday, July 16, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann


June, 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.

Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in sixteenth-century Japan.



I kind of jumped at the chance to read and review "Blade of the Samurai".  I grew up with a crush on Richard Chamberlain in the mini-series of James Clavell's "Shogun" on tv.  I even remember a half-dozen or so words in Japanese from watching the drama.

With all the character names and Japanese terms in the book, it could have been easy to get somewhat lost, but Ms. Spann does a good job of making it clear what the terms mean so her readers can become involved with the story itself.

Some might find it harsh that, after being 'hired' (in a sense) to find a murderer, if Hiro and Father Mateo cannot solve the murder in a couple of days, they will be killed in his (or her) place and face will be saved.  Of course, when you live in a military society where might makes right (not a judgment-just a statement), and you never know what another family will do to oust those in power to advance their own status...there is little or no room for error.

There are many twists, turns and intricacies in the plot of "Blade of the Samurai".  It's like being presented with a complex piece of origami and trying to figure out how to make it yourself by reverse engineering.  Each new fold uncovers a hidden gem, a piece of the larger puzzle.  Each time I thought, "Aha, that is the murderer," some new piece of evidence would pop up.  It made me want to keep reading until I found out who actually committed the crime.

"Blade of the Samurai" is a well-researched novel that shows despite a 500 year distance, people are people.  The characters have hopes, dreams, aspirations, jealousies, obstacles much like we do today.



Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.


(Disclosure:  I received a copy of "Blade of the Samurai" from the author and publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.)


  1. I always love checking out all of your reviews, LuAnn. You read such a huge variety of stuff! There is something for everyone here :). You must finish a book every couple of days. It takes me weeks to finish one. And so many I don't finish at all :(. You are a great influence!

    1. I spent about 30 years not reading except for classes and kids' books, Candace. I'm just catching up! :O)

  2. I love the imagery of the oragami - it makes so much sense!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour!

  3. I love the imagery of the origami - it gives a great picture of the complexity of the plot!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.