The Ninja’s Daughter: A Hiro Hattori Novel (A Shinobi Mystery). Susan Spann. Seventh Street Books. August 2, 2016. 248 pp. ISBN#: 9781633881815.
The daughter of an actor is found murdered by the side of Kyoto’s Kamo River, and a man who “thinks” he murdered her comes for assistance to the Portuguese Jesuit priest, Father Mateo, and his secret body guard, the master ninja Hiro Hattori. Hiro and Father Mateo are at odds initially as the latter believes there’s a mystery here to be solved and Hiro believes this is a messy business they should avoid.
The latest Shogun has died and various groups are vying for this position, indeed getting ready to go to war with each other to win the coveted position that carries so much power, riches and fame with it.
Father Mateo and Hiro discover that the local magistrates won’t investigate this murder because the dead girl was the daughter of an actor, a profession considered shameful in 16th century Japan. Father Mateo, however, values every life and insists on investigating this murder, helping the family of the murdered girl, and defying the warning that they would be arrested if they interfered with any investigation.
The intriguing parts of this mystery involve a golden coin found attached to the string that caused the death of Emi, a silent lover Jiro who was with Emi the night before she died but remembers nothing else, a family whose males acted in Noh dramas, a sister who knew of Emi’s plans and secret meetings with men at night, and parents who allowed Emi to act in unseemly ways because they couldn’t control her fierce passions about her future life.
Besides being a good mystery, this novel is also intriguing in its presentation of the Noh actors’ culture, the set standards of communicating with men and women of different social classes, and the levels of integrity and abuse of the local clans ruling the area with its codes of behavior for different members in the samurai hierarchy.
Wonderful historical mystery, Susan Spann! Highly recommended reading!