Tuesday, July 10, 2018

G1004 Book Review of Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann

Name of Book: Trial on Mount Koya

Author: Susan Spann

ISBN: 978-1-63388-415-1

Publisher: Seventh Street Books

Part of a Series: Shinobi Mystery

Type of book: 1565, mystery, Japan, Buddhist Temple, message, murder, Kings of Hell, ideologies, love, hope, anger

Year it was published: 2018


Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo head up to Mount Koya, only to find themselves embroiled in yet another mystery, this time in a Shingon Buddhist temple atop one of Japan's most sacred peaks.

November, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo travel to a Buddhist temple at the summit of Mount Koya, carrying a secret message for an Iga spy posing as a priest on the sacred mountain. When a snowstorm strikes the peak, a killer begins murdering the temple's priests and posing them as Buddhist judges of the afterlife--the Kings of Hell. Hiro and Father Mateo must unravel the mystery before the remaining priests--including Father Mateo--become unwilling members of the killer's grisly council of the dead.


The two main characters include Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo. Hiro is a shinobi (a ninja) who is posing as a ronin samurai and also happens to be a translator for Father Mateo. In this book, due to a character's death in the previous novel, he is not as logical as he is and lets emotions get the better of him. Father Mateo seems to be the one who stepped up to the plate in this mystery and he is really mastering the idea of Japanese culture and the dos and dont's of what to do or ask. The secondary characters would be the priests at the temple as well as two pilgrims who came prior to Hiro's and Father Mateo's arrival. Their personalities are rounded and their histories as well as backgrounds are explored in great deal, although they are only seen through Hiro's eyes.


Appearances can be deceiving


The story is in third place narrative from Hiro's point of view. The suspense is definitely top notch, and for me it was almost impossible in trying to guess who was the killer. I also loved learning about the Buddhist/Shingo aspects, especially about the Kings of Hell and the motivation is for murder is quite unexpected. The stakes felt much higher for me than in previous novels maybe because of the season in the book or because the killer is not outside but inside. Like in previous novels, I highly look forward to further adventures of Hiro and Father Mateo and gaining more knowledge about Japan.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Susan Spann is the 2015 Rocky Mountain FIction Writers' Writer of the Year,  and the authro of five previous novels in the Hiro Hattori/Shinobi Mystery Series; CLAWS OF THE CAT, BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER, THE NINJA'S DAUGHTER, and BETRAYAL AT IGA. SHe has a degree in Asian studies from Tufts University and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. When not writing, she enjoys hiking, photography, and traveling in Japan.


Two things I love about summer are Mariah Stewart's Chesapeake Diaries, which haven't disappointed me yet, and Susan Spann's Shinobi mysteries which seem to be getting better every year. And this year is no exception. Possibly unlike the previous Shinobi mysteries, which some I felt could be stand-alone, TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA definitely needs to be read after BETRAYAL AT IGA, especially to understand the vulnerable place that Hiro's mind is at a death of a secondary character in the previous novel. While the mystery is highly intriguing, and it will keep one reading into the late hours of the night, the characterization of Hiro and Father Mateo is top notch, especially in understanding where Hiro came from and where he is going in his life. I honestly think this one might be the best yet of the Hiro Hattori mysteries that I read.

This was given by the publisher for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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