Monday, July 16, 2018

Review and Giveaway: TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA: A Hiro Hattori Novel by Susan Spann

Guided by the conviction that men kill for three reasons--power, money, or love--Hiro Hattori, protagonist of Susan Spann's TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA (Seventh Street Books), races to unravel a disturbing series of murders at a remote Buddhist temple. Sent to deliver a secret message to an Iga ninja residing there, Hiro and Father Matteo become trapped at the monastery by a violent storm. As thunder booms and snow swirls in impenetrable clouds, a murderer begins to pick off the monks one by one, leaving the victims posed as one of the thirteen jusanbutsu, or deities that judge the souls of the dead. Realizing that the number of jusanbutsu matches the number of individuals at temple--including themselves--Hiro and Matteo must unmask murderer and motive before all succumb. Judging love and money as unlikely factors behind murders at an impoverished monastery, Hiro focuses on the power struggles that complicate the monks' attempts to name a new abbot. Only when Matteo becomes the murderer's next target does Hiro recognize the error in his thinking. But how to outwit someone intent on creating a grisly council of the dead?

TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA succeeds as both compelling mystery and rich historical fiction. The closed situation--a given number of individuals isolated in an inescapable location with an unknown killer among them--keeps tension high and forces the characters into a persistent state of mistrust. The realization that each victim personifies one of the thirteen jusanbutsu only adds to the strain, as survivors attempt to predict who will be next to die and how. The abbot falls victim early on, leaving the monks without a designated leader and exposed to the danger of factions. The presence of a prickly pilgrim allows for the possibility of outside political involvement, and Hiro and Matteo are never above suspicion in the eyes of the monks. The oppressive weather not only heightens the danger by muffling sounds and obscuring sight, but adds the stress of a ticking clock--the murderer obviously intends to complete the monastery's annihilation by storm's end. Spann manipulates these elements of suspense with great finesse, creating a true page-turner of a plot that culminates in an emotionally satisfying and logically convincing conclusion.

Even more notable in this sixth installment of the Shinobi Mysteries is the seamless fusion of psychological insight with cultural history. The murderer's modus operandi vividly exposes readers to Buddist teachings on death and final judgment. Each victim's gruesome pose permits discussion of a particular Buddist avatar, while the entire chain of murders opens discussion of how Buddhism treats the passage of souls from this life to the next. These teachings are integral to understanding the murderer's twisted motivation. None of the earlier Shinobi mysteries delves so far into religious questions, but in TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA Buddhist and Christian teachings confront each other in a direct and sustained manner. Father Matteo finds himself forced to counter Buddhist teaching with his own Christian convictions and comes directly under suspicion for murdering in the service of a rival religion. Spann treats this clash of philosophies with admirable insight, adding depth to Matteo's character and aspirations even as she humanizes a murderer whose horrific acts have a noble, if ultimately warped, purpose.

Politics simmers below the surface in this latest Shinobi Mystery, allowing questions of a more philosophical bent to bubble to the surface. Yet the underlying threat posed by Japan's feuding overlords remains ever present and ever dangerous to the Portuguese priest and his mission. Hiro cannot afford to let guilt and the heartbreak of lost love cloud his vision as Father Matteo falls into the hands of a murderer struggling to redeem his own disappointed devotion. Ingenious, ambitious, and resoundingly successful, TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA is Susan Spann's best novel yet.


Susan Spann is the award-winning author of the Shinobi Mystery novels featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Matteo. 

After earing an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University in Boston, Susan earned a law degree.    She currently specializes in intellectual property and business and publishing contracts. Her interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Hiro Hattori novels set in sixteenth-century Japan. 

Susan is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Writer of the Year, a former president of the Northern California Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, and a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Historical Novel Society, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is represented by literary agent Sandra Bond of Bond Literary Agency. 

When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, photography, hiking, and traveling in Japan. 

For more information, please visit Susan's website. You can also find Susan on Facebook and Twitter (@SusanSpann), where she founded the #PubLaw hashtag to provide legal and business information for writers. 


During the Blog Tour, we will be giving away 5 copies of TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA! To enter, please use the Gleam form linked below.

--Giveaway endes at 11:59 pm EST on August 8, 2018. You must be 18 or older to enter.
--Giveaway is open to US residents only.
--Only one entry per household.
--All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the system; suspected fraud will be decided upon by the blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
--Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, July 3
Kick Off at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, July 4
Interview at Donna’s Book Blog
Thursday, July 5
Interview at T’s Stuff
Feature at The Bookworm
Friday, July 6
Guest Post at Jathan & Heather
Sunday, July 8
Review at Carole Rae’s Random Ramblings
Tuesday, July 10
Feature at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Wednesday, July 11
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, July 12
Guest Post at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, July 13
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Monday, July 16
Review at Writing the Renaissance
Tuesday, July 17
Guest Post at Writing the Renaissance
Wednesday, July 18
Review at Beth’s Book Nook Blog
Friday, July 20
Feature at Maiden of the Pages
Saturday, July 21
Review at Cup of Sensibility
Tuesday, July 24
Feature at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Thursday, July 26
Feature at Encouraging Words from the Tea Queen
Friday, July 27
Interview at Dianne Ascroft’s Blog
Monday, July 30
Review at Pursuing Stacie
Wednesday, August 1
Feature at CelticLady’s Reviews
Thursday, August 2
Review at A Book Geek
Friday, August 3
Interview at Jorie Loves a Story
Sunday, August 5
Feature at What Is That Book About
Monday, August 6
Review at Broken Teepee
Wednesday, August 8
Review at Reading the Past


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