This is an entry into increasingly common genre of historical crime fiction, whereby the author takes a certain period in history and then works on a mystery plot, usually involving solving a murder in the traditional way.
I’ve always thought this was rather a daft way to set about reading/finding out more about a particular period in history: if you want to know, why not simply read about Japan in the 16th century? Silly me: for the obvious reason, that it’s much more fun to read a story, and if that story has interesting historical stuff thrown in along the way, then all the better, because it’s fresh and fascinating. And this is a very entertaining story. Not least because Hiro is a great character, sort of an undercover super-assassin working security: that is, he’s a Shinobi, or Ninja warrior, member of the Hattori clan, who has been tasked with protecting Portuguese catholic priest Father Mateo with his honour and his life. Father Mateo, for his part, is a rather more complex character than he at first appears, and definitely not the fish out of water in Japanese culture that he pretends.
I think the setting here is a little before Shogun, if you know that whopping tome, and it’s more amongst the ordinary folk rather than the Emperor and Shogun types. In this story, the murder victim is from an actor’s guild, and as such is beneath the notice of the official legal system, which in any case has its corrupt members. Plus there is the backdrop of political unrest in Kyoto at the time, as the old Shogun is dead, a new has risen up but is likely to be challenged, and the new guy doesn’t especially like Hiro or Mateo. Which translates to, is likely to have them assassinated.
So a good story, interesting characters, and very importantly in a novel such as this, the author clearly has an in-depth understanding of Japanese culture and history at this period, which gives the setting great interest and authenticity.
What Works And Why?
We read to escape, enjoy, engage, and find out more about our world. So reading is great - but what makes a great read? A page dedicated to short analyses of how writers engage readers.