Welcome to the TLC Book Tours stop for Betrayal at Iga by Susan Spann, the 5th book in the Shinobi Mystery series! I started the Shinobi Mysteries on book 3...and I've been hooked ever since. At the end of The Ninja's Daughter, Hiro, Father Mateo, Ana, and Gato have made haste out of Kyoto, and this novel picks up as they enter the village in which Hiro grew up and trained amongst the many shinobi that inhabit it.
They attend a traditional welcome dinner at the house of Hiro's cousin, and commander of the Iga ryu, Hanzō. Coincidentally emissaries from a rival clan are also attending this dinner, and when one of them (kind of disgustingly) dies in the middle of this dinner, Father Mateo (and Hiro by default) offers to investigate and find his killer.
The members of the rival clan Koga are positive that he was poisoned by one of the Iga clan members, even though Hanzō invited them there to discuss a peace treaty. Iga members suspect it was another Koga member who poisoned him.
In the midst of this dangerous investigation, Hiro is trying his hardest not to be distracted by his former love interest, Neko, who has a somewhat nefarious past (which Hiro has the scars to prove). He's not sure whether his judgement is clouded when both Neko and his own mother become suspects in the investigation.
This book kept me on the edge of my seat, as I constantly changed my mind about who I thought the murderer was (and it turned out not to be who I thought I'd settled on). The setting was a great change of pace from the two previous novels set in Kyoto (I'm not sure where the first 2 were set, as even though I have the books on my shelf, I haven't read them yet). I am enjoying the growing bond between Hiro and Father Mateo, and thought the vulnerability that Hiro displayed during this novel helped give his character even more meat.
As far as food goes, I did miss the many mentions of Hiro's favorite bowls of noodles that were so often mentioned in the other two, but I was still able to find inspiration in the many, MANY mentions of tea (lots of it green) and rice throughout. Spann is always able to describe broth and fish in ways that make me crave it something fierce as well, but since the initial dinner table death (spoiler - there was more than one death!) scene was less than appetizing, I chose to put those on the backburner this time around. There was also a funny passage where Father Mateo mistakes the Japanese word for fried chicken with the word for a certain poison.
What I really wanted to make were sweetened rice balls, but I finished (and started - it's very easy to read through in a sitting or two) the book last minute, and didn't have the right kind of rice in my pantry, so instead, I made some rice pudding...which I imagine tastes somewhat similar to a sweet rice ball...and infused it with matcha green tea. It was delicious, but next time I want to actually try my hand at the real thing!
Ana entered the room from the kitchen, carrying a tray that held a teapot, cups, a canister of tea, and a plate piled high with sweetened rice balls.
Betrayal at Iga
author: Susan Spann
series: A Shinobi Mystery (Book 5)
publisher: Seventh Street Books (July 11, 2017)
genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Mystery > International Mystery & Crime
paperback: 250 pages
"foodie" read: No, but there's always a bit of inspiration from Japanese culture in Spann's novels.
opening sentence: Hiro Hattori leaned into the wind that swept down the hill and across his face.
teaser: 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.
about the author: 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 debut 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.
connect with the author: website | facebook | twitter
recipe inspired by the book: Matcha Rice Pudding
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Yield: serves 8-10Author: Heather Schmitt-GonzalezPrint Recipe
Matcha Rice Pudding
prep time: 5 MINScook time: 30 MINStotal time: 35 mins
- 1 1/2 cups sticky rice
- 3 cups water
- 2-3 cups of milk
- 1 tablespoon culinary-grade Matcha powder