Trial on Mount Koya is the latest in Susan Spann’s Shinobi Mystery series. In this installment, a Jesuit priest called Father Mateo and his Samurai guide and translator named Hiro, seek shelter in a mountaintop Buddhist temple during a snow storm. On their arrival, the resident priests are hesitant but eventually admit them, explaining that another traveling duo has just joined their ranks making their total fourteen. A few hours later the murders begin – one after another, priests are killed violently and their bodies posed in Boddhisatva stances like one of the thirteen kings of hell. Based on the sequence and each victim’s resemblance to a different Buddhist incarnation, Father Mateo seems to be next in line on the killer’s hit list and Hiro is duty-bound to kill himself if his charge is wounded so both men have to race against time to solve the mystery before it is too late.
Within this 244 page story, the author illustrates the shifting perspectives of good and evil and the differences and similarities between the philosophies taught by Christianity and Buddhism. While we don’t live in the sixteen-century setting of Shogun reign where Samurai warriors are honor-bound to commit suicide if they fail their missions, this historically based novel is told with a timelessness that makes the characters as relevant as though they are modern day heroes. The characters’ names added a layer of interest – Hiro as the hero, Father Mateo as the potential Christian martyr, even Soro as the pilgrim hiding a secret about a female alliance. This fast-paced novel is at once historical fiction, religious and philosophical discussion and crime thriller and in all its manifestations, it delivers page-turning interest. My major critique of the story was that I wish there was more of it – more prose, more delving in the secondary characters, more discussion of the priests’ rituals. But what I did read, I enjoyed immensely and would like to continue on with the Shinobi Mystery series.
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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from TLC Book Tours in order to complete this review. However, my opinions are strictly my own and I was not otherwise compensated for sharing them.
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