Claws of the Cat (Shinobi Mysteries 01) by Susan Spann

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When a retired samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master shinobi (Japanese ninja) Hiro Hattori has just three days to find the killer. If he doesn’t, the dead man’s vengeful son promises to kill both the beautiful geisha accused of the crime and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest that Hiro has pledged his own life to protect. The investigation plunges unwilling Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they quickly learn that everyone from an elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai’s death a mystery. Will they manage to find a culprit on time? What will be discovered during the investigation?

What I liked:

  • The cover. It’s gorgeous – simple but intriguing, with great, original font.
  • The main protagonist. Hiro is a shinobi but he never boasts of his skills or postures around other people. He does what he can in order to be considered an ordinary man. That’s, I suppose, how a real shinobi would behave.
  • The mystery – it was well-done, with some red herrings thrown your way; overall not so easy to solve but very fun.
  • The setting – 16th century Japan, people! The author did her research properly and if there were any mistakes I didn’t notice them. Well-done!
  • If you are not a history geek, don’t be afraid of the unknown words and terms – there’s a short glossary at the end of the book explaining everything important.

What I didn’t like:

  • Characterization of women. It was rather sketchy, far sketchier than in the case of male leads and I wonder why. Those geishas (or geikos) were so alluring after all…
  • The narration itself. It wasn’t very bad but I felt it could have been better. Proper editing would polish those rougher patches, too spare and dry to make me satisfied. Sometimes I got an impression that the author felt not up to her task and the poetic beauty of the setting didn’t make a lasting impression…

Final verdict:

A solid, well-plotted cozy mystery and not a bad beginning of a series but also a book which could do with some re-edits. I do hope the series is going to get only better because I am so enchanted by the idea of a Portuguese Jesuit priest solving crimes along a Japanese assassin in the 16th century Kyoto.


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8 Responses to Claws of the Cat (Shinobi Mysteries 01) by Susan Spann

  1. heidenkind says:

    Aw, it’s disappointing she didn’t do more with the geishas. Who lets a geisha go to waste??

  2. Carole Rae says:

    I read the 4th one or whatever. I do need to back-up and read this one. 🙂

  3. Melfka says:

    Sounds like an interesting book, especially that you attest to the solid research.

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