Book Review | “Betrayal at Iga” (Book No.5 Hiro Hattori novels) by Susan Spann (previously the Shinobi Mysteries) We get to find out more about Hiro’s family as well as the delightfully unexpected character of Tane who touched my heart!

Posted Friday, 29 December, 2017 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I am a reviewer for Prometheus Books and their imprints starting in [2016] as I contacted them through their Edelweiss catalogues and Twitter. I appreciated the diversity of titles across genre and literary explorations – especially focusing on Historical Fiction, Mystery, Science Fiction and Scientific Topics in Non-Fiction.

Originally, I was meant to be a part of the blog tour for this release during [Summer 2017] however, the tour did not happen and I still had the blessing of receiving this novel for review. Despite my earnest attempts to read this between August and September, the lightning storms were not working in my favour; thereby, due to circumstances out of my control then and my health issues in the Autumn months, I postponed reading a fifth installment of a series I belove to await a moment where my heart could fully appreciate soaking into this world I love to re-visit.

I received a complimentary copy of “Betrayal at Iga” direct from the publisher Seventh Street Books (an imprint of Prometheus Books) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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On where we left Father Mateo, Hiro Hattori & Ana the housekeeper:

Series Overview: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo investigate crime in medieval Japan, from the palaces of the samurai to the colorful world of Kyoto’s theater district—and beyond. The series weaves fictional plotlines through one of the most exciting—and dangerous—times in Japanese history.

Oh, dear my! I love how wickedly Spann gives us something we’re not expecting and yet so very much want to see found in each of her stories! I have become quite attached and fond of Ana, Father Mateo and Hiro as well as Hiro’s cat Gato (that’s a riddle in of itself that will tickle your funnybone!) to such a level I eagerly appreciate finding them once more occupying the story’s central heart. I think the ending of this one was quite special indeed because it brought out things that might have been elusively just outside our knowledge in the previous installments but are now fully present and centred. These characters are a ragtag family of whom are precious and dear to each other, even if they don’t always sound like they love each others’ company! Now that their embarking on a new beginning, I long to see what will be waiting for them at their destination! What fun!

I love how in the end, the original title was fittingly well placed to alert you about a particular plot point that truly did come to pass! The title that is on the novel is well played, as it hints towards where the story ends up in the concluding chapters. The beauty of reading this installment is how the world in which Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori occupy is now expanding dimensionally wider in scope and thereby, the next story will carry us a bit further into the background of Hiro than we’ve ventured previously. I am full of awe at how with each new story, the mysteries grow in strength and in presence of place,…

Ms Spann has created a series for the historical reader at heart!

Ms Spann keeps you keenly invested in being aware of not only the current plot thickening before your eyes, but the concurrent story-lines which came prior to the one your reading! You have to keep observant and the wicked challenge is piecing all the lovely clues together which add into the depth of where the series is grounded. I love finding an author whose symmetry for carrying a series forward is never overshadowed by an installment but rather brightened by how all the stories within the series broaden the appeal of how far reaching the series has become! It’s a special treat, as you get to dig deeper into the background of where the Hiro Hattori novels are set and how everything is fused together properly through the characters who populate the series directly.

I fell in-step with this installment with the grace of remembering the previous stories, alongside the causal familiarity of the lead characters as even their personable quirks of manners or behaviour were easily observed now! I like reading serial fiction for the extension of spending time inside an author’s imagined world but the treat is finding authors like Ms Spann who make returning visits as lovely as this one has been for me! Even noting the guards at the bridges and gates in the city was a fixture of my memories, as one thing I learnt quickly is your mode of transportation is nearly always by foot but your freedom of movement is never a guarantee!

Spann etches in lessons of mortality and a fine line of ethics into her stories, which is one reason they appeal to me as much as they do. She doesn’t just want you to read a mystery for the sake of it, but to truly think about the complications each crime brings to the community or have one death can involve many different lives in ways that is not as easily to see from the offset. It is this attention to the details that grants you the joy in reading the Hiro Hattori novels – each story is a further glimpse into the evolving story where the fuller arc of the series begins to bloom forward into view.

-quoted from my review of The Ninja’s Daughter

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On my connection to Susan 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 a blog tour that I 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 (Blade of the Samurai) blog tour in September 2014! Such serendipity as the tour 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. We have continued to remain in touch although we do not get to ‘meet-up’ on Twitter as often as we once did due to our schedules in recent years.

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

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Book Review | “Betrayal at Iga” (Book No.5 Hiro Hattori novels) by Susan Spann (previously the Shinobi Mysteries) We get to find out more about Hiro’s family as well as the delightfully unexpected character of Tane who touched my heart!Betrayal at Iga
Subtitle: A Hiro Hattori Novel
by Susan Spann
Source: Direct from Publisher

Autumn, 1565: After fleeing Kyoto, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo take refuge with Hiro’s ninja clan in the mountains of Iga province. But when an ambassador from the rival Koga clan is murdered during peace negotiations, Hiro and Father Mateo must find the killer in time to prevent a war between the ninja clans.

With every suspect a trained assassin, and the evidence incriminating not only Hiro’s commander, the infamous ninja Hattori Hanzo, but also Hiro’s mother and his former lover, the detectives must struggle to find the truth in a village where deceit is a cultivated art. As tensions rise, the killer strikes again, and Hiro finds himself forced to choose between his family and his honor.

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

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ISBN: 9781633882775

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

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


Genres: Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction


Published by Seventh Street Books

on 11th July, 2017

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 256

Published By: Seventh Street Books (@SeventhStBooks)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

About Susan Spann

Susan Spann

Susan Spann is the author of three previous novels in the Shinobi Mystery series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, and Flask of the Drunken Master The series is now known as the Hiro Hattori Novels through it's new publisher Seventh Street Books.

She has a degree in Asian Studies and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. When not writing, she works as a transactional attorney focusing on publishing and business law. She raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium. As well as hosting the inspiring Twitter series of informative publishing insight known as #PubLaw.

Converse via: #HiroHattoriNovels + #HistoricalMystery or #HistMyst

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on the anticipation of reading this fifth installment:

Ever since the lightning storms of Summer, I’ve been hungry for reading the next installment in the Susan Spann Mystery series set in 16th Century Japan! Betrayal at Iga was a story I was itching to *devour!* as soon as I finished the very last chapter of The Ninja’s Daughter – as there was a murmuring in the winds of great change and calamity – IGA surely would bring with it a dramatic turning point for the series and the beloved characters I’ve come to know throughout each installment of this riveting series I simply cannot put down!

I still marvel at how I came to know of the series through the second release Blade of the Samurai whilst being blessed to have read the series from the beginning in Claws of the Cat. Each step along the way my heart has felt pulled into the drama and the suspense behind how the friendship Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori have shaped their lives – there is a lot going on in the series, from a historical perspective and from the world’s point of view of where Ms Spann has alighted us into her lovely 16th Century world. Her world-building is what makes this such a keen series to feel a part of as you nearly take for granted it’s not the 16th Century each time you place yourself in step with her characters!

I also love seeing her research trips through the photographs she shares on her blog and on her Twitter feeds. She delighted me to no end when she added a few to a conversation we shared a short while ago – allowing all of us a further glimpse in what speaks to her heart about Japanese culture, tradition and the majestically mystical locales which populate the series overall. She walks similar footpaths of her characters – she breathes in similar air and she has found a way to transcribe everything she drinks in sight to how her world moves and evolves with her series.

As December started to dawn and January felt closer than a month away – I knew it was time to visit Iga. Winter has become a kind reprieve in regards to reading – not in November, but in December – where I felt I could re-align my heart and my mind with the stories I’ve ached to read these several months where adversity and strife alongside health woes seemed to take precedent over all else.

One way to celebrate a New Year is to surround oneself with favourite authors – I am happily reading my way into 2018 with authors who make my soul happy for the stories they are writing for me to discover! Stay tuned dear hearts – I’m reading Julie Lessman, Anna Lee Huber, Jennifer Kincheloe, Christina Courtenay and Selina Siak Chin Yoke as the year winds down and begins anew!

my review of betrayal at iga:

Meeting Hiro’s grandmother was a delightful surprise – I knew prior to reading Iga, this might be the place in the series where we might delve further into Hiro’s background and his family as the foreshadowing towards this enlightenment on his family’s behalf was set quite firm. He never liked to reveal too many details about himself or his family; there have been moments where there were incidents outside his control, where his family became known or other people close to him had stepped out of the shadows but for the most part; he tried to shroud his identity and background from sight. Partially, I supposed due to his nature – of having his training and skills, but also, partially I felt due to his own personality. He was quite the private person, sometimes I felt even moreso than Father Mateo who was equally reserved but more open in regards to sharing conversations with others outside his own language and cultural heritage. In this, their friendship has been a unique one to watch as over time, despite their ardent differences, they share a very special bond.

Regarding Akiko directly, she seemed the kind of grandmother Hiro would have – she wasn’t one to mince words but she wasn’t one to reveal her true hand either! She held back just enough to give surprise if it were warranted but there was something else about her – especially in the way she and Hiro reacted round each other that led me to think they shared a special bond themselves. Seeing this, re-affirmed how Hiro doesn’t easily find attachments in his life and is very protective of whom he trusts.

I truly love finding out more about Japanese customs – I learnt quite a bit from my Japanese friends, but as I read this series, I am wicked happy to expand my knowledge. This time round, it was the ceremony of a peace treaty feast – between two clans of shinobi who distrust each other faster than you can blink! I felt for the women serving the food – as I hadn’t realised some of the customs in serving applied to being on your knees for the duration of a meal or ceremony. The foods were enjoyable to observe until one of the members of the opposing family took violently ill – I must admit, remembering such vile fits of illness is never one I desire to re-live as I am sure we’ve all had food poisoning at least a few times in our lives to respect what can happen to someone else whose health is radically altered by something they ate. Even so, it was the way in which Father Mateo remained calm, even though he was shocked (and rightly so, he should have been!) which spoke more to me about the scene at hand.

A word about the food for a moment – I love Miso Soup and (cooked) Sushi – as well as noodle bowls and other vegetarian dishes served with rice. However, I am growing more appreciative of fish as I grow older whereas when I was younger, I was not as keen on eating anything from the sea since I was a toddler. This is why the fish and broth soup seemed interesting to me – you can do a lot with broth as a lot of broth bowls are considered to be a healthy alternative to a more expansively rich meal. It was the way in which they pickled the vegetables which interested me – as pickled and fermented foods are ones I enjoy. Hence why, the meal as it was being served whet a thirst of interest within my own palette! Yum! And, who wouldn’t like mushrooms in their soup!? My favourite miso has daikon radish, shiitake mushrooms, cubed tofu, wakame and scallions.

It isn’t an easy feat to see Hiro unsettled but this is exactly what happens when he is reunited by the presence of Neko – a beautiful shinobi in her own right, but one who likes to walk a daring line between loyalty and temptation. You could tell she wanted to rile Hiro, to get under his skin and to affect him in a personal way – the irony is how you observe how well she knows exactly what to say and do to accomplish the outcome she wishes out of Hiro!

Hiro for his part is discouraged by his Cousin’s lack of interest in keeping Father Mateo safe and outside the political warfare about to unhinge itself at their doorstep – all because of a misunderstanding during the ill-fated feast! Father Mateo never fails to make me smile – his willingness to go the extra mile, of seeking out the truth where it falters to be seen and to place his own life in jeopardy if it meant unearthing a greater foe amongst those who felt everyone else was innocent spoke volumes of his character. You do have to wonder how Father Mateo developed his strength – of finding security within himself deep enough to brave the warriors he encountered with such frequency since he was partnered with Hiro.

When you find out the fuller history between Hiro and Neko, your heart goes to Hiro instantly – for the betrayal he experienced all those years ago felt unfair somehow, even though in his culture as a shinobi it was par for course what could happen if someone wanted to use you to their advantage; still, it burns a piercing look into how far some would go to prove a point. Especially disheartening is the fact Hiro had been falling in love but this didn’t seem to matter – everything was askewed the wrong way round, of proving one’s skill and honour rather than to allow love to enter their lives. In this moment, I felt sad for Hiro – as his life was truly not his own to live but only to those he served.

The members of the Koga clan who supposedly want to declare war for the retribution are the most curious lot within this installment! They remind me of the nursery rhyme about who ‘huffs and puffs’ til a certain building ‘blows down’ because these men (and one woman) are full of ‘bluster’! Oh, how they draw their breath to hiss and how they love to spit out their words in haste and anger – yet, they withdraw as well, owning to what Father Mateo knows too well himself: he’s the one who has to sort out this crime, for no other would be trusted to find the truth!

I loved seeing Father Mateo react to Hiro’s relatives – from his grandmother to his mother to his cousin – each in turn showed a different side to Hiro but they also revealled a bit about themselves. Such as when the priest realised he was amongst those who are emotionally removed from the crime committed here because they themselves are trained for such crimes as shinboi. They have such a different life compared to the kind of life a priest would accept or understand; something he finds difficult to process time to time such as now. As he gathers information about certain aspects of what transpired he is put into uncomfortable positions to overhear things which do shock him a bit to learn.

Finding Hiro’s grandmother Akiko had taken in an orphaned girl and named her Tane was an interesting twist to the main plot. Especially as Ms Spann showed how the girl could only communicate through Sigh Language – as it spoke to homegrown signs the girl devised herself and used to speak on her behalf to to the family she lost. It also pointed to the fact, those who are hard of hearing or are unable to speak were not limited to only occupying later centuries but were alive during previous generations as well. It was interesting to hear the reasons why these persons were kept from records and observations in regards to populations. Sadly this is still being practiced today – of removing marginalised persons from historical records in an ill-attempt to have them erased from our memory.

Poisons are a tricky beast – they are effectively one of my favourite devices used in mysteries because of how diverse the choice of poisons are to be found irregardless of the century a story is told. In this one, what was interesting is the layers – of how one crime led to another (a near miss) and how if you looked at these from a distance, there was a layering of how someone wished harm to some but not to others; as if there was a message being carried out in the delivery of the crimes.

This is how Ms Spann holds my attention – she makes me endeavour to sleuth a bit ahead of her characters – daring me to seek out the hidden threads of how everything connects giving me an intellectually robust mystery I readily find enjoyment in engaging inside. I love seeing how her mind ferrets out her secondary story-lines – of how all the pieces of each character’s tapestry is finely orchestrated to be revealled bit by bit and even then, there are surprises for us – either in their character’s heart or the will of how their perspective might change as they live through different experiences.

She holds a particular attention towards detailed continuity and of evoking an enlarged sense of the wider world in which feudal Japan existed; of how all the branches of individual lives were being affected by the rise of power and of the augmentation of shifting tides of alliances therein. There is a hefty potboiler of dramatic revelation and exploration of what makes a country tick from the inside out whilst not to be overshadowed by the pursuit of a humbled priest who takes his personal mission deeply seriously as his soul’s intended journey for this life he’s led. As we weave in and out of the series, we see the landscape of Japan shifting, of how lives are being affected by the shogun currently in reign and of how even the shinobi themselves were not immune to the growing changes within their world.

On why I love reading the Hiro Hattori / Shinobi Mysteries:

One of the best delights as a reader is how the series is written – between the turns of phrase which either make you think long and hard about what is said or the cleverly tongue-in-cheek dialogue which gives you either a smirk, a laugh or both at once – the narrative is alive with the mirth of what Ms Spann can insert into a wonderfully realised Cosy Historical Mystery! I gave it this designation originally due to how it pulls back from revealling to much of the crimes themselves – it holds pace with what I might consider being acceptable for Cosies but sometimes, it brokers halfway into a Hard-Boiled Mystery as well – similar to how I find other mysteries under this heading.

When you get to soak into a novel illuminated by the scope of the historical accuracies Ms Spann puts into the background, the lush backdrop of the landscape itself, the cultural & traditional rituals of the era (ie. The 16th Century) whilst having a firm understanding of the socio-political state of the country itself (Japan) you find yourself truly entrenched into the series!

There is a quiet rapport between the characters too – Hiro and Father Mateo understand each other on such a keen level, there are little nuanced gestures they share between them now or unvoiced acknowledgments you know they understand without the words needing to be spoken.

This particular installment was absorbed within one sitting – I quite literally found it #unputdownable due to how convicting the chapters were pulling me into their depths! I honestly did not want to pull myself out of Hiro and Father Mateo’s sphere – I wanted to go further, learn more and patiently watch as everything continues to unfold in front of their path. It’s one of those EPIC series where each new chapter in their lives is building on the breadth of what has come before,… drawing us closer to the hidden truths of their reality. As we still haven’t yet learnt of the benefactor aiding Father Mateo and keeping him safe by having Hiro at his side.

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It is dearly difficult to part company with characters who feel as if they’re a part of you – a welcome sight each time you visit with them and have carved a niche inside your heart as if they were family. This is how I feel about Father Mateo and Hiro Hattori – you grieve with them, you feel anxious with them and you dearly hope everything shall turn out alright but there is a level of uncertainty – of how the final curtain shall reveal itself on the path they’ve been walking… it is hard to put down an installment of this series, knowing you must wait a half year or a bit longer before the next one reveals itself – in this instance, I am on bated breath awaiting

‘Trial on Mount Koya’ which releases:

JULY 2018!

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This book review is courtesy of:

Seventh Street Books

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

Jorie is happily celebrating @SusanSpann's 5th #HiroHattoriNovels release! Read about this #HistoricalMystery Click To Tweet

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Betrayal at Iga”, book synopsis of “Betrayal at Iga” and series synopsis were provided by the publisher Seventh Street Press (via Prometheus Books) and used with permission. Cover art of “Claws of the Cat”, “Blade of the Samauri”, “Flask of the Drunken Master” and “The Ninja’s Daughter”, the author’s photograph of Susan Spann and author biography were provided by the author Susan Spann on previous blog tours and used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2017 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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 Friday, 29 December, 2017 by jorielov in #JorieLovesIndies, 16th Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Compassion & Acceptance of Differences, Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Equality In Literature, Feudal Japan History, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, History, Japan, Japanese Fiction, Japanese History, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity




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