Blade of the Samurai

If you enjoy books set in Asia, especially Japan, then this book is for you. The setting is Sixteenth-Century Japan in the days of the war-lords, the shoguns. Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit priest whom Hiro is protecting, are called to investigate the murder of a top member of the shogun’s staff. The victim was a cousin of the Shogun. The leading suspect is a friend of Hiro’s.

At the back of the book, Spann has given us a brief glossary of Japanese terms which clarify Hiro’s position in the world. He is a samurai and is thought to be ronin by most in the capital city of Kyoto. He cannot hide being samurai, but he can hide that he is also shinobi. Shinobi is what we generally refer to as ninja, based loosely on the Chinese word for the elite warriors. While samurai are the ground troops of the modern army, the shinobi are the Green Beret.

I enjoy Spann’s writing. She paints pictures with an economy of words. She sticks to the storyline, even though it is complex. I have much to learn from her technique.

This is her second book, the first, Claws of the Cat. was just as good. I first read book 4 and reviewed it here. For some reason, I missed reviewing Claws.

Mike Lawrence

The Water Room

This book is number two in the Bryant & May series. I tried to get book one, but none of the SEK libraries have it, so I settled for book two. Two or three years ago, I read book 12, The Burning Man and decided to go back to the start.

Arthur Bryant and John May both in their seventies, but have refused to retire. The Peculiar Crimes Unit was created just for them. The PCU is not part of the Met (known to us as Scotland Yard) but is a police unit. The cases nobody else wants are sent to the PCU.

Or, sometimes Bryant and May work a case without authorization, as happens in this story. A friend of Bryant’s asks him to look into the death of his mother because no other copper will consider anything but natural causes.

That leads the squad on a long and complicated search for her killer. Three more people die before the soggy climax.

Don’t read this if you dislike water, rivers, rain, sewers, spiders, rats, and the imminent chance of drowning. On the other hand, if you want to learn about the rivers and streams over which London was built and at the same time learn more about Egyptian mythology regarding the four elements and the rivers of myth, then this is your book.

While I enjoyed the book, it does plod along. There is more repeating of information that is either necessary or proper. The paperback version I read is 476 pages, at least fifty of which could have been cut with no harm to the story–make that 77 pages.

Just keep in mind that cranky, unsociable Bryant and dapper May are in charge of peculiar crimes.

Mike Lawrence