Japan’s Sacred Peak Offers Quiet, Contemplation, and Murder in ‘Trial on Mount Koya’ [REVIEW]

Monk heading to Gobyo

A Buddhist temple may seem an unlikely place for a mystery, but Susan Spann’s ninja sleuth Hiro Hittori discovers death and treachery inside its walls in Trial on Mount Koya. (Photo by ccdoh1, Flickr)

A ninja and a priest walk into a Buddhist temple. Although it may sound like the beginning of a joke, it is actually the premise for the sixth installment of what is one of the most unusual and fascinating mystery series I’ve encountered in recent years. Penned by novelist Susan Spann, the latest Hiro Hattori novel, Trial on Mount Koya, reunites fans with her ninja sleuth and pays homage to one of the greatest mystery writers who ever lived, Dame Agatha Christie.


Seventh Street Books

It is the November of 1565, and Hiro and his sidekick, Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest, have ascended Japan’s beautiful and mythic Mount Koya. Per the usual, the two don’t always see eye to eye, especially as they enter a realm where women aren’t allowed, something Mateo doesn’t totally understand.

Carrying a basket with a meowing cat inside, the unlikely duo arrives at a sacred Shingon Buddhist temple long after dinner has been served. But they aren’t just casual travelers or even pilgrims on a spiritual quest. Instead, they are there to deliver a secret message to an Iga spy who is posing as a priest inside the compound.

Suddenly the weather turns and Hiro and Mateo are trapped inside the temple, but so is a cold-blooded killer who begins methodically murdering the priests, one by one, posing their dead bodies in horrific scenes representative of the Buddhist judges of the afterlife. Will Hiro find the killer before he murders the one priest he’s closest to: Mateo? Sinister and highly atmospheric, this is a juicy page turner that will delight longtime readers will undoubtedly score Spannn some new ones.

One of the things that I’ve come to love about Spann’s books is that they aren’t only a good old-fashioned whodunnit, but each volume is rife with historical detail and works better than a suped-up DeLorean at transporting us back in time to the fascinating world of medieval Japan. It’s a culture I’m totally ignorant of, but that doesn’t keep me from wanting to linger here, enjoying Hiro and Mateo’s company as Spann immerses us in this foreign land, taking time to educate us about its customs, traditions, and ethereal beauty.

Like so many of my favorite authors have done, she makes me want to pack a suitcase and travel to see these wonders myself, and that’s what great fiction does best. It keeps us riveted, teaches us something new, and allows us to follow a path not traveled from the comfort of our sofa, opening our eyes to something majestic and magical, even if she frightens us a bit along the way. Trial on Mount Koya is Spann’s personal favorite from this series to date, and it is easy to see why. This is more than a mystery, it’s a darn good novel. Enjoy!



Susan Spann

Susan Spann

Susan Spann is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year and the author of the Shinobi Mystery novels featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo.

Her debut novel, Claws of the Cat, was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Other books in the series include Blade of the SamuraiFlask of the Drunken Master, and The Ninja’s Daughter

When not writing, Susan is a transactional attorney focusing on publishing and business law. She obtained her degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history and culture.

In her free time, she enjoys cooking, traditional archery, martial arts, and horseback riding. She lives in northern California with her husband, son, two cats, and an aquarium full of seahorses.

She invites readers to visit her home on the Web at SusanSpann.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

By Susan Spann
256 pgs. Seventh Street Books. $15.95

TLC Book Tours Tour HostYou may purchase Trial on Mount Koya at one of these fine online retailers: Seventh Street Books, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, and IndieBound.

Trial on Mount Koya is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.


About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to Japan’s Sacred Peak Offers Quiet, Contemplation, and Murder in ‘Trial on Mount Koya’ [REVIEW]

  1. Pingback: Susan Spann, author of TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA, on tour July 2018 | TLC Book Tours

  2. Right?! Every time she comes out with a new book in this series I want to hop on a plane and explore all the places in the story.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

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