First Sentence: Hiro Hattori leaned into the wind that swept down the hill and across his face.
Master ninja Hiro Hatori and Jesuit Father Mateo have come to the house of Hattori Hanzō where a gathering of Koga emissaries have come for peace negotiations. When one of the Koga clan dies an unnatural death at dinner, Hiro and Father Mateo are given three days to identify the murderer.
A quick note: There is a very needed and useful Cast of Characters provided. However, it is at the very end of the book, rather than the beginning where it would be most apparent and useful.
There is no waiting for someone to die. Spann kills off the victim very shortly, and dramatically, into the story. The three-day deadline to solve the crime immediately adds a sense of ticking-clock pressure.
Dialogue is so important to the enjoyment of a book. It is that, more than anything, which brings characters to life. From the first page, we are treated to wonderful dialogue which also tells one quite a bit about the relationship between the two protagonists. It also serves to tell us a bit about the relative heights of characters themselves—“we left our winter kimono in Kyoto.” … “What about you?” the Jesuit asked Hiro. “Mother left my old ones in the cabinet, but they’d barely reach your knees.” The wry humor is so well done—“Your god never had a woman stab his thigh,” Hiro started up the hill toward Hanzō’s mansion. “True enough. But a spear did pierce his side.” No, this is not a religious book, but the comment is a reflection on the character of Mateo.
The seemingly small informational facts—“Hiro and Father Mateo followed Akiko down a narrow passage lined with paneled sliding doors and covered by a low, carved ceiling designed to prevent the use of swords.”--make such a difference in setting the time and place for the story. At the same time, they feel as though they are bits one should store away just in case one has the opportunity to visit Japan.
As well as the protagonists, there are several really wonderful secondary characters; Hiro’s grandmother Akiko, the mute girl Tane, and Father Mateo’s housekeeper Ana amongst them. Each of them serves to enrich the story.
"Betrayal in Iga" is very well done. There are suspects and bodies aplenty and an excellent last line.
BETRAYAL IN IGA (Hist Mys-Hiro Hatori/Father Mateo-Japan-1565) – VG+
Spann, Susan – 5th in series
Seventh Street Books – July 2017