As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.
The Ninja’s Daughter is the fourth book in the Shinobi Mystery series and it is a reunion with the regular cast and some of my favourite background characters, such as Ana, Gato, Ginjiro, and Suke. I really enjoyed the previous two books I’ve read in this series, Blade of the Samurai and Flask of the Drunken Master, and I was looking forward to discover what would happen next for Hiro and his charge Father Mateo. What I found in The Ninja’s Daughter was both an interesting murder mystery and a great development of the overarching story.
There are two distinct arcs to the novel: the murder plot, where Hiro and Father Mateo try to figure out who murdered Emi, and the overall series arc, which focuses on the conflict to claim the Shogunate after the death of the Shogun in the second book and the mystery of Hiro’s employer. To start with the latter arc, I really enjoyed this one. The increasing tension in Kyoto and the clearly tightening of the current warlord’s grip on the city makes for an interesting backdrop to the murder investigation, but it also influences the progress of the investigation, as Hiro and Mateo’s movements are watched and curtailed because of it. I do hope that we will start to find out more about Hiro’s mysterious employer in future books, because I really want to know who has arranged such iron-clad protection for Father Mateo and why.
The murder mystery is another complicated one, where once again the class differences and intricacies of feudal-era Japanese social graces play an important role. It’s not just the complications that accompany trying to investigate a murder that isn’t seen as a crime by the ruling classes — actors are seen as standing outside of the social order and so beyond the concern of the law — but also the difficulties of trying to move between the different social strata and navigating the enmity of the local assistant magistrate without getting in trouble. Father Mateo’s status as a foreigner is a device Spann uses deftly to circumvent some of the stricter social mores as a foreigner’s missteps are more easily forgiven. As noted for the previous book, Hiro consciously uses this fact to find out details they wouldn’t otherwise be able to winkle out. The eventual killer and their motivations as well as the reason Hiro and Matteo were called in to investigate, were unexpected and I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story.
While the murder to solve is the plot of the novel, the heart of the narrative is the friendship between Hiro and Father Mateo and the way they have to navigate around their very different world views. With each novel they grow to better understand each other and learn to overlook the other’s to them incomprehensible quirks. Mateo reveals some of his past and the reason he was called to the cloth, while we also learn more about Hiro’s family and clan. Their mutual trust keeps on growing and it’ll be interesting to see how their bond will stand the stress that it will no doubt endure in the next novel, given the denouement of The Ninja’s Daughter.
Susan Spann delivers a great new instalment of the Shinobi Mystery series and with The Ninja’s Daughter moves the arc of the series in a new direction. Hiro remains a fascinatingly complex hero, with a very sympathetic companion in Father Mateo. For fans of historical crime fiction, the Shinobi Mystery series is one to definitely pick up. The Ninja’s Daughter stands alone well enough to serve as an entry point though I’d advise you to go back to Blade of the Samurai to pick up the story there.
A Fantastical Librarian is just one of the stops on this blog tour. Please visit the other stops for different views on this book, author interviews and guest posts.
Monday, July 25th: Buried Under Books
Tuesday, July 26th: Reading Reality
Tuesday, July 26th:Book Dilettante
Wednesday, July 27th: In Bed With Books
Thursday, July 28th: Worth Getting in Bed For
Friday, July 29th: Wordsmithonia
Friday, July 29th: Write Read Life
Sunday, July 31st: Write Read Life – author interview
Monday, August 1st: Hoser’s Blook
Wednesday, August 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, August 4th: A Holland Reads
Thursday, August 4th: Book Dilettante – author guest post “Swords & Crosses: Jesuit Missionaries in Japan”
Sunday, August 7th: Buried Under Books – author guest post, “How I Decided to Murder The Ninja’s Daughter”
Monday, August 8th: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Tuesday, August 9th: Open Book Society
Thursday, August 11th: Luxury Reading
Friday, August 12th: SJ2B House of Books
Monday, August 15th: Books and Tea
Monday, August 15th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Tuesday, August 16th: A Fantastical Librarian
Wednesday, August 17th: Broken Teepee
TBD: Lavish Bookshelf