Ready for a mystery? Here's the clue:
Did you guess tea? Tea is the second clue in the cover reveal tour for CLAWS OF THE CAT, Susan Spann's debut Shinobi Mystery novel, coming from St. Martin's/Minotaur Books on July 16, 2013. A teahouse features prominently in this novel, set in sixteenth century Kyoto, Japan:
When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro Hattori has just three days to find the killer before the dea man's vengeful son kills 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 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.
Susan tells me tea came to Japan from China during the eighth century, but initially the beverage was a luxury item consumed mostly by priests and nobles. A monk named Eisai, who founded the Zen school of Buddhism, returned from a trip to China during the twelfth century with another tea-related custom: making tea from powdered leaves rather than steeping the tea leaf whole, which gives the tea a rich green color and stronger flavor. The introduction of powdered tea led to the development of the now-famous Japanese tea ceremony, which involves the ritualistic preparation and consumption of powdered matcha tea.
During the Muromachi period (1533-1573), tea's popularity increased substantially. People of all social classes enjoyed the beverage, and the wealthy often gathered for "tea drinking parties" where they passed cups of tea around the room and tried to guess the name, type and location of each variety sampled. Teahouses rose in popularity, and one of the geisha's many talents was proper preparation of tea for her male patrons.
Fascinating facts all woven into the rich setting and enthralling plot of CLAWS OF THE CAT!
Susan is revealing the cover of CLAWS OF THE CAT over three days. The first bit appeared yesterday at Tammy Salyer's blog; the third piece will appear tomorrow on Heather Webb's. On Friday, Susan is hosting a contest on her own blog: leave a comment on the cover reveal and contest post between the time it appears on Friday morning and midnight Friday night for a chance to win a $20 Barnes & Noble gift card!
Now off to brew a nice cup of tea...
CLAWS OF THE CAT is available for pre-order at Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Powell's Books and booksellers near you.