Titles: Claws of the Cat
Author: Susan Spann
Genre: Historical Mystery
Blurb: May 1564: When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro has no desire to get involved. But the beautiful entertainer accused of the crime enlists the help of Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit Hiro is sworn to protect, leaving the master shinobi with just three days to find the killer in order to save the girl and the priest from execution. The investigation plunges Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they learn that everyone from the elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonoured brother has a motive. A rare murder weapon favoured by ninja assassins, a female samurai warrior, and a hidden affair leave Hiro with too many suspects and far too little time. Worse, the ninja’s investigation uncovers a host of secrets that threaten not only Father Mateo and the teahouse, but the very future of Japan.
My Thoughts: CLAWS OF THE CAT is a debut novel and the first in a series. The series is certainly off to a promising start, I mean to say, a Ninja detective! How cool is that? When the murder occurs Hiro, a master Ninja, wants nothing to do with it and advises Father Mateo not to go to the teahouse when the suspected murderess, a member of his flock, asks for help. But once the Priest gets involved ends up being told if he can’t prove the woman’s innocence then he too will die Hiro becomes involved, as he has been sworn by the Shogun to protect Father Mateo. The two men make an interesting investigative team, Hiro knows all the Japanese protocols and tiptoes around the questions whilst Father Mateo just blurts out questions making the most ghastly social errors; but Hiro sees all and misses nothing. The action unfolds against a backdrop of historical Japan and many Japanese customs come alive on the pages. There is a glossary of the Japanese terminology at the end of the book for any word you can’t figure out from the context. CLAWS OF THE CAT is fast paced with lots of twists and turns and plenty of red herrings. I would have liked to know more about why the Jesuits were in Japan and more about Hiro’s background. As this is the first of at least 3 books, I am guessing we will learn more in the future. There are a few minor characters to break the tension and enrich the story, and I think they might be making appearances in future stories – Ana the housekeeper, Hiro’s young samurai connection Kazu, and the drunk monk (whose name escapes me). Oh and the claws of the cat? Not the cute little kitten that pounces through the pages; instead it is a weapon favoured by female assassins and go over the finger tips to rip the skin apart like a big cat would!!! Icky! My only gripe is the use of the word police, a very modern description that would not have been used at that time, in fact did not start in common usage until the late 1580s and then that was used to refer to civil administration rather than law enforcement. A small thing but niggled at me. Other than that I will certainly be keeping an eye out for the next exciting episode in the Shinobi Mystery series.
C – Above average. Was very readable and enjoyable.
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With thanks to St Martins Press and the author via Netgalley.