Betrayal at Iga (Hiro Hattori/Shinobi)
by Susan Spann
Cover Artist: Design: Nicole Sommer Lecht
Review by Mel Jacob
Seventh Street Books Trade Paperback / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781633882775
Date: 11 July 2017 List Price $15.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Betrayal at Iga is the fifth Hiro Hattori Mystery by Susan Spann set in 16th century Japan. This time ninja Hiro must solve the murder of an envoy from a rival clan to save an alliance, but it may mean the death of his mother.
Hiro has been assigned to protect the Portuguese Catholic priest Father Mateo. After being forced to flee Kyoto, they are on the way to another city. When they stop at Iga, they find themselves arriving at the same time as emissaries from a rival clan. However, when the leader of the visiting delegation suddenly dies, apparently from poison any hope of an alliance appears doomed.
Members of the delegation immediately blame their host, Hiro's clan leader. He denies responsibility. Father Mateo suggests he and Hiro investigate and find the murderer. The offer is accepted by both clans with some reluctance.
Hiro worries that his mother, grandmother, or a former lover, all assassins skilled in the use of poisons, may have committed the crime. The visitors are all too ready demand death of the three.
Father Mateo and Hiro begin their investigation with only reluctant participation from the visitors. The visitors include two ninjas from related families and a woman who seems to be of noble rank, but does not claim it. The youngest member defers to an aggressive ninja who demands satisfaction for the murder in the name of the clan.
Hiro still cares for his former lover, but tries to suppress his feeling. In their youth, she betrayed him and he has never forgiven her actions.
Spann uses her period setting well and provides insights into the samurai culture of Japan of 16th century. The complex ranks and hierarchical structure provide challenges to Hiro and Father Mateo as they strive to solve the mystery and determine who they can trust. With sufficient suspects, many readers will not guess the killer. The series has been titled as both Shinobi Mysteries and Hiro Hattori Books.