+Blog Book Tour+ Blade of the Samurai (Book 2 of the Shinobi Mystery series) by Susan Spann

Posted Monday, 1 September, 2014 by jorielov , , , , , , 4 Comments

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Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann

Published By: Minotaur Books (@MinotaurBooks), (a Thomas Donne book) 15 July, 2014
imprints of St. Martin’s Publishing Group, which is now a part of MacMillian Publishers
Official Author Websites: Site | @SusanSpann | Blog
Available Formats: Hardcover & Ebook Page Count: 304

Converse via: #ShinobiMystery#ShinobiMysteries OR #BladeOfTheSamurai


Acquired Book By:

I was selected to be a tour stop on the “Blade of the Samurai” virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. I opted to receive the first novel of the Shinobi mystery series to formulate a better impression about where the series began and where the series is continuing in this sequel. I received a complimentary hardback copy of the “Blade of the Samurai” direct from the author Susan Spann, in exchange for an honest review. However, I received a complimentary hardback copy of “Claws of the Cat” without obligation to post a review or comment on its behalf. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein on either novel. I elected to post this review for my own edification as much as my enjoyment for the introduction to a new series I will be in full support of watching grow through successive installments!

Inspired to Read: 

I personally always have a preference of reading serial fiction in ‘order’ of the established series, and I can go to great lengths to sort out the order of series too! This is especially true for the Elm Creek series (by Jennifer Chiaverini) and the Aunt Dimity series (by Nancy Atherton)! When I first started to research this novel going on tour this Summer (referencing Blade), I discovered that it is the type of series where you could ‘side step’ from the opening bits of the series, but I had feeling you’d miss quite a heap in doing so! Therefore, I was instantly inspired to read Claws ahead of Blade, and thus took up the offer to receive Claws with Blade for the tour! I simply love having a good footing into the momentum of how the key characters interact, what motivates them, and how the series expands by relieving more of their internal natures as much as a clue into their outward lives outside of their investigations (especially for cosies!).

On my connection to Ms. Spann:

I started visiting the chats hosted by @LitChat in the latter months of 2013, as it was around the time of the conference at The Betsy in which I started to cross paths with regular chatters, amongst whom were Natalia Sylvester (début novelist of “Chasing the Sun”) and Susan Spann. I am unsure which month I first started to notice Ms. Spann as a friendly presence who always reminded me of myself — someone who provided cheerful commentary, engaging questions for each visiting guest author, and a wicked knowledge base on a variety of topics. Generally speaking, I always click-over to read a person’s Twitter profile, but whilst engaged in those #LitChat(s) I felt like it was this magical rendezvous for the bookish and those who are attuned to bookish culture.

In this way, it wasn’t until I learnt of Blade of the Samurai was going on tour through TLC Book Tours (the touring company I am hosting for this Interview & my forthcoming book review) I had decided to discover a bit more about her! In so doing, I learnt who she was ‘behind the curtain’ so to speak! I always considered her one of my ‘friends in the twitterverse’ but I never disclosed this to her until I was on the blog tour! Such serendipity as the tour has brought us a bit closer and I am grateful that Twitter is a social-positive method of reaching past our distances in geography to connect to people who share a passion for the written word.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with Spann through our respective love & passion of reading inside the twitterverse whilst attending #LitChat; I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time.

A lovely surprise arrived within the pages of the book: 

Ms. Spann offered to send me a bookmark with the novels, as her husband had kindly designed two special editions to celebrate the series thus far along! Imagine my pure delight in finding I had received a “Blade of the Samurai” bookmark with my parcel of Shinobi mysteries! She tweeted me this picture as a ‘teaser’ and I must say, it hardly does the bookmark justice, as they are ‘slimline’ markers with the featured ‘cover art’ images per each book cover in the series. This one is a close-up on the hilt of the sword and the rolled blue & white paper; overlaid with the title and subtitle of ‘A Shinobi Mystery’. Eek. For a girl who is wholly giddy about a new cosy historical mystery series having read the first and fallen in love with it head over foot – this small gift will forevermore make me happy to use as I read each newly published installment!

Cleverly on the opposite side is a full listing of the series in print & the one title scheduled to be in print: “Flask of the Drunken Master” for July 2015! Incredibly next Summer will give me a new adventure for two of my favourite cosy investigators, whose charming method of fighting crime is nearly being indifferent to the request to solve them! Indifferent in the way that only a priest and ninja can elect to reveal as their own preferences of how to occupy their days are quite different from each other. I love how they simply ‘fall into’ a scene of a crime or are handed an offer to investigate nearly as if by accidental acquaintance. It is such a curious method of how a mystery can alight in your life and path, that I love seeing who they are connected too which will lead to a new case!

+Blog Book Tour+ Blade of the Samurai (Book 2 of the Shinobi Mystery series) by Susan SpannBlade 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.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

Also by this author: Author Q&A : Susan Spann (on behalf of her Shinobi mysteries), Claws of the Cat, Flask of the Drunken Master, Interview with Susan Spann (FLASK), The Ninja's Daughter, Author Interview (Hiro Hattori Novels), Betrayal at Iga

Series: Shinobi Mystery, Hiro Hattori

Also in this series: Claws of the Cat, Flask of the Drunken Master, The Ninja's Daughter, Betrayal at Iga, Trial on Mount Koya, (Interview) Trial on Mount Koya

on 15 July, 2014

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 304

Author Biography:

Susan Spann 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 début 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.

Precursor to Blade: Claws of the Cat: {Book One}

Claws of the Cat by Susan SpannI could not stop reading Claws of the Cat once I found myself inside this beautiful world of Feudal Japan! I simply devoured the story, daring my eyes to read further and faster, yet wanting to take a pause to allow the scenery and the words to sink in to my conscience. This is a story of honour as much as it is a story of supposition without the ability to see past a suspicion. The fact that there is a cheeky and beloved cat, er, kitten in the household of where Father Mateo and Hiro keep their residence gave me an added joy! The very, very last scene of the novel left me in a happy smile as even though I do not understand Portuguese I recognised a ‘cognate’ of Spanish! The humour of that reply was not lost on my eyes! I love the pace of the novel, because Claws is set to have an expanse of time envelope the community, giving you the chance to know the layout and the rituals of their beliefs. There is a clever balance between Japanese spirituality, Zen Buddhism, Christianity, and a few others in-between all three. I love writers who find a way to etch a spiritual presence as part of the make-up of a character’s mind. If you appreciate crime fiction that allows you to work through the muddling puzzle as it starts to unravell and thread through the needling of proof – you will findClaws of the Cat most enjoyable to read!
– quoted from my book review of Claws of the Cat


Resuming where Claws left off:

As soon as I opened the pages of Blade of the Samurai, I felt as though time had stopped moving forward as I greeted Hiro and his kitten Gato as though only a few hours had transpired between visiting with them! I am still mirthfully enjoying a cheeky chuckle over the origins of his kitten’s name! Even his dear friend Kazu returns in the opening pages, which is quite wonderful considering that I had enjoyed observing their close friendship in Claws. I was hoping he might come back in successive novels in this series of the Shinobi mysteries, and thankfully, I did not have very long to wait!

I believe Hiro has grown a bit through his close companionship with the Priest, as although he is classically trained and carries on his shinobi heritage well, there are parts of his being that are being reasoned a bit outside of his traditional view and beliefs. If not, I daresay he would not work well alongside Father Mateo, as the Priest holds law, truth, and justice to such high accords. In this way, I appreciate the way Hiro is being conveyed and how his differences under Father Mateo’s influence of friendship continue to show how unique of man he is when projected against his peers. Even in consideration of other shinobi, Hiro tends to walk a line between two cultures and two distinct ways of living through practice of conviction.

My Review of Blade of the Samurai:

The ease of acceptance within the friendship of Father Mateo and Hiro is what originally endeared me to this cosy historical mystery series, and it is this same connection of two souls of different cultural backgrounds that holds my attention inside Blade of the Samurai. Father Mateo still views the world with eyes full of optimistic hope and Hiro is still guarded by the knowledge of what his shinobi heritage and honour brings to his own world view. In this particular case, it is Hiro who has unwilling placed the two in danger, and I found that only fitting as it were the actions of Father Mateo in the debut which pitted them against the guillotine. Instead of having a vengefulness fire lit inside of an impassioned son bent on justice for his father’s death, we are now being led into a conspiracy inside the shogunate.

This is of interest to me, as it is the shogun of whom, allows Father Mateo a passing grace to practice Christianity in Kyoto; a measure that can and will be withdrawn if the shogun feels his trust is misplaced. In the 16th Century, this part of Japan was deeply regulated by customs of traditions, and Father Mateo’s presence was not one that was popular amongst the locals who lived there. I had gathered the sense in Claws of the Cat, even the shogun himself allowed this presence with a watchful eye and a tentative air of mistrust. I found myself once again in full appreciation for how the scene of the crime was both described and visually tempered. Although a serious crime was most definitely committed by someone who had preferred the intended mark not to be in a position of defense, what struck me the most about this particular death scene is how malicious the intent was evident after seeing the dead man’s hands.

Further, what I found most striking is the attitude amongst the samurai themselves, as they all appear to have a disconnected conscience and emotional state of mind. In theory, I know the benefits of such a status, however, in reality when presented with a crime directly affecting someone they may have known, I do oft find their sensibility and emotional responses to be a bit wanting. However, I could no more ask a samurai to show emotion than I could a Vulcan! Effectively, their code of honour and justice has once again placed Father Mateo and Hiro in that most unfortunate dance towards the death clock — wherein, if the two cannot wrestle out the truth from bare-bone facts and thin evidence of supporting cause of effect, they once more could place their lives at risk to save an innocent.

The intricacies of unravelling a thread of deception at such a heavily armed and guarded residential compound such as the shogunate is a curious tale to curl inside. The are the carpenters who are working constantly to fulfill the demands of the shogun himself; including a finite and exquisite carved addition to the interior design; as much as there is a hive of activity throughout the day when the doors are open to the public. The mystery runs quick and deep inside this installment as it had within the first, giving way to understanding more of the area where Hiro and Father Mateo live, as much as to give the impression that there is a very thin and delicate measure of safety for the shogun.

What impressed me as being a bit unique is how easily it was in some ways to gain access to the shogunate despite the measures of security that were taken to ensure the shogun would be safe behind the walls, gates, and guards. Proving a valid point towards a false sense of security even in the most prepared and secure places from within those in high power reside. It was quite telling that for all the resources the shogun employs to have within his central core of protection, even he, can have a breach; where safety is not nearly as secure as he would hope.

Spann has a wonderful gift for capitalising on secondary characters who prove to have pivotal roles within the story as we move forward — so much so, that they become a bit of a fixture in your mind’s eye as you re-visit their environment. For instance, Ana is the quintessential housekeeper who is a bit more than she appears, able to react and distract at a moment’s notice given whichever circumstances arrive at the Priest’s humble abode. The curious beneficiary of the Priest’s coffers to stay in Kyoto are held within the life of a merchant, whose own ambitions nearly blindside him to his primary mission. And, of course there are the interactions with the lifeblood of the community set around where Father Mateo and Hiro live and work. We get to become acquainted with different members of the area in each installment, and as this particular story shifted into the shogunate, I was left with a smile. It felt the most curious place to head after the teahouses!  

Hiro is cast alone a bit in this mystery, as Father Mateo sustains injuries to where he is bedridden for a good portion of the sequencing of time where Hiro could use his knack for not only tact but for conveying what a shinobi feels is not justified due to tradition and respect. I liked seeing them apart, although not for the reasons in which occurred, but to see how Hiro would fair on his own merits outside the guidance of Father Mateo. I oft felt that Hiro might have felt their roles were reversed a bit, that he was teaching the Priest, but from the very start, I felt it was the other way around; the Priest was teaching the shinobi!  

Oh, oh my – this story leaves such a wide open door of plausible next chapters I am left quite thirsty indeed to open the first chapter of Flask of the Drunken Master! I must admit, I felt a forbearance of knowledge towards the revealing end chapters of Blade —  what I hadn’t realised sooner is how dearly the ending would off-set the balance of everything else. Part of the ending left a smile on my face, and the other half had me half-shudder wondering what would be coming next. Through all of it, I was on absolute pins awaiting the next words which will occupy the forthcoming third novel of the Shinobi Mysteries! For you see, instead of being greeted by the next scene, the Glossary winked at me! Oy! And, what a delicious wait I have until next Summer! 

Now that the plot has most decidedly thickened, I cannot… nay I must not even contemplate the context behind the next title! As I have a smitten of an idea percolating inside my mind as to ‘whom’ the ‘drunken master’ may or may not be! Ooh, how delightful!

On continuity and further intrigue as the series progresses:

Spann continues to write in such a beautiful arc of narrative voice, styling her cosy historical mysteries after the culture she celebrates with each novel she pens. She keeps the characters true to not only their own personal beliefs and convictions, but to the cultural heritage they are naturally akin to representing. I may have voiced wanting to see more emotional responses from the samurai, but that was only as an observational notice of how well controlled their emotions are and how wisely they choose not to show too much emotion to the outside world; as it would be a completely slip of weakness. There are simply times where you feel as a reader, one character, even if a minor one in a story might react differently than their training; and it is in this, that I celebrate Spann’s gift for historical accuracy as much as personality of character accuracy. The ways of the West and the East do not always align, and by representing her characters with the strength of their own individual personalities, a bridge is reached and crossed.

The only section of narrative I had a personal issue with was when the descriptions of Father Mateo’s injuries were more focused on his hands; as I had a personal memory evoke out of the mists of time; a central focus as I read this part of the story. Had my mind not had a reference point, I do not think it would have even registered, but it did make me a bit sensitive to this thread of the story-line. For this reason I did not attach a ‘fly in the ointment’ because another reader will not have the same issue.

I honestly did not want to reach the end of Blade, I wanted to lengthen out the hours I had within this world and in so doing, curated a few lists on Riffle, added one of my lists to my sidebar, and chatted a bit with the author Susan Spann! I also happily was conversing with a bookish friend of mine Christine who had spent a lovely day at an antiquarian book shoppe. In truth? I was doing everything but finishing the story, because I knew once I closed the final chapter’s pages, I would be in full wait until July 2015 to read ‘what comes next’ — sometimes knowing your this close to the ending of a newly beloved mystery series your heart pulls back and refuses to read the current ending!  


Read an Excerpt of the Novel:
Blade of the Samurai: A Shinobi Mystery by MacMillian Publishers


This blog tour stop was courtesy of TLC Book Tours:

TLC Book Tours | Tour Host

click-through to follow the blogosphere tour.
 I posted an expanded review for “Claws of the Cat”,
 as I found I had quite a bit to say!
 Previously I posted an Author Q&A with Susan Spann 
 in conjunction with this review!
Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comSee what I am hosting next:

Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Comments make me smile! Let’s start a conversation! I appreciate your visit & look forward to your return! I do moderate the comment threads; do not worry if the comment is delayed in being seen! Drop back soon!

Reader Interactive Question:  What do you enjoy the most about successive serial mysteries of suspense!? Especially ones that dip into the historical past and alight in such a cleverly built world as if you could walk within its walls and know exactly where you were going? What gives the appeal to read a cosy historical mystery over a contemporary one? Which authors draw you in their narratives which have you happily engrossed inside the era of their choice?

{SOURCES: Cover art of “Blade of the Samurai” and “Claws of the Cat” were provided by the author Susan Spann and used with permission. The author photograph, book synopsis and the tour badge were all provided by TLC Book Tours and used with permission. Blog Tour badge provided by Parajunkee to give book bloggers definition on their blogs. Bookish Events badge created by Jorie in Canva. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Buy links on Scribd excerpt are not affiliated with Jorie Loves A Story. Book Excerpt was able to be embedded due to codes provided by Scribd. Katana (sword) clipart inserted through the ClipArt Plug-In via WP for the Open Clip Art Library (OCAL) – all clip art images are in the public domain and are free to use without restrictions. Tweets were embeded due to codes provided by Twitter.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2014.

The ‘live reading’ tweets I shared as I read & reviewed “Blade of the Samurai”:

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Comments on Twitter:

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 1 September, 2014 by jorielov in #LitChat, 16th Century, Blog Tour Host, Book | Novel Extract, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Bookish Discussions, Bout of Books, Clever Turns of Phrase, Cosy Mystery, Crime Fiction, Cultural & Religious Traditions, Equality In Literature, Geographically Specific, Green-Minded Publishers, Hard-Boiled Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Thriller Suspense, Japan, Japanese Fiction, Martial Art History, Martial Arts, Passionate Researcher, Psychological Suspense, Scribd, Suspense, TLC Book Tours, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Wordsmiths & Palettes of Sage, World Religions

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4 responses to “+Blog Book Tour+ Blade of the Samurai (Book 2 of the Shinobi Mystery series) by Susan Spann

    • Hallo Heather!

      Thank you for featuring me on Facebook – quite the honour, indeed! I went over and scoped it out as I simply smiled whilst reading this note you left for me to find! Cheers! This book series truly touched my heart and I am thankful my love of the series is transparent in my reviews; both of Blade & Claws combined! :) Incredible blessing to have found them through TLC!

  1. Thank you so much for this wonderful review! I love that you picked up on the reversal – with Father Mateo and Hiro essentially teaching one another – it’s so neat when a reader/reviewer picks up on a story element that’s important to me, too.

    I can’t tell you how happy it makes me, also, that you like the books. I love that we’ve connected on Twitter, and it’s especially nice when someone you meet becomes a friend and also enjoys my novels.

    Thank you for all the wonderful words!

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