Admittedly, it’s been over a year since I read Susan Spann’s debut novel, Claws of the Cat. The biggest side effect (I know of, at least) of being a reader and writer for a living is that the constant Victoria Falls of new stories, characters, plots, and worlds that submerge my brain tend to make them all jumble and slosh into sometimes indistinguishable tales.
Not so with Claws of the Cat.
Set in Kyoto, Japan in the fifteen hundreds, Claws of the Cat is a crime fiction mystery and the story of two men, a shinobi in disguise, and his ward, whom he is sworn to protect, a Portugeuse-born Jesuit priest, both drawn into investigating the brutal murder of a samurai in a local teahouse. If the mystery remains unsolved, the price is the Jesuit’s life.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, But I don’t know a thing about fifteenth-century Japan. The beauty of Susan’s storytelling is her talent for drawing readers into this rich and culturally intriguing world with delicacy and subtlety, and her stripped-down, dry-witted style is the perfect complement to her equally sharp-as-a-tack and canny main characters, Hiro Hattori and Father Matteo. When you’ve finished reading Claws of the Cat, you will feel as if you’ve taken a minivacation, both in time and place, to old-world Kyoto, sipped tea in the local teahouses of the Pontocho District, felt mud from the streets squishing beneath your getas, barely dodged the lethal swipe of neko-tes wielded by an adept and dangerous kunoichi, and plotted conspiratorially over cups of sake against the shogunate with other rulerless, wild ronin. In short, this is a whodunnit mystery that will paint your imagination vivid, rare, and intoxicating colors. Don’t miss it! And most exciting of all, the follow-up novel, Blade of the Samurai, is coming soon.