June, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the shogun's cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the shogun's palace. The murder weapon: Kazu's personal dagger. Kazu says he's innocent, and begs for Hiro's help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi's claims.
When the shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit priest under Hiro's protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor.
The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda's enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin's skills to reveal the killer's identity and protect the shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo's wife, and the shogun's stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the shogun demanding the murderer's head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time . . . or die in his place.
Susan Spann's Blade of the Samurai is a complex mystery that will transport readers to a thrilling and unforgettable adventure in sixteenth-century Japan.
Spann's second whodunit set in 16th-century Japan falls short of the standard set by her debut, Claws of the Cat (2013). Ito Kazu needs the help of his friend and fellow clansman, Matsui Hiro, a shinobi (ninja) assassin turned bodyguard. At the shogun's palace in Kyoto, someone has fatally stabbed the shogun's senior clerk and second cousin, Ashikaga Saburo, with Kazu's dagger. That Kazu, ostensibly Saburo's assistant, had been working as a spy makes his situation even more perilous. Fr. Mateo vila de Santos, the Jesuit priest whom Hiro protects, joins the investigation, but one of the shogun's top aides, samurai Matsunaga Hisahide, gives the pair only three days to solve Saburo's murder. Spann did a better job of conveying the politics of the time in the previous book, and both the intrigue and the detecting are below the level of Laura Joh Rowland's series set in 18th-century Japan.