Jul 20, 2015

Book Review: Flask of the Drunken Master by Susan Spann

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Flask of the Drunken Master: A Shinobi Mystery #3 by Susan Spann
Published July 14, 2015; Minotaur Books
Genre: historical mystery, 16th century Japan

Opening paragraphs:
"Halt!" The armored samurai stepped forward to block the bridge. "No one crosses the Kamo River without identification. State our names and your business in Kyoto."
Hattori Hiro gestured to the Jesuit at his side. "Father Mateo Avila de Santos, a priest of the foreign god, from Portugal . I am Matsui Hiro, his interpreter and scribe." 
My comments: And so begins the third book in the Shinobi Mystery series, featuring Hiro, a samurai in disguise as an interpreter, whose job is to guard the Jesuit priest, Father Mateo, in Japan. The two have solved murders before, and continue to do so in this book. Hiro is the main crime solver, with Father Mateo as his sidekick or helper.

Samurai and Japanese codes of conduct are very much in the forefront, and Hiro must steer Father Mateo clear of any offence the Jesuit might make in speech, manner, or conduct while they interrogate people and make inquiries regarding the crime they are determined to solve. The two make an interesting pair of sleuths and their complimentary characters add to the interest of the novel. 

The author brings Japanese history, its customs and politics, to life in this series and in this book, as we enjoy detecting from an unlikely pair of sleuths. I highly recommend it for history and mystery buffs alike. 

The plot: "August 1565: When a rival artisan turns up dead outside Ginjiro’s brewery, and all the evidence implicates the brewer, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo must find the killer before the magistrate executes Ginjiro and seizes the brewery, leaving his wife and daughter destitute....

But with Kyoto on alert in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, a rival shinobi on the prowl, and samurai threatening Hiro and Father Mateo at every turn, Ginjiro’s life is not the only one in danger."  (publisher)

Susan Spann is a transactional publishing attorney and the author of the Shinobi Mysteries, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. Her debut novel, CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013), was named a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month. Susan has a degree in Asian Studies from Tufts University, where she studied Chinese and Japanese language, history, and culture. Her hobbies include 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.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and the author for a review copy of this book. For other reviews of this and other books in the mystery series, for giveaways, and author posts, visit the tour schedule.


A hard copy of Flask of the Drunken Master to a resident of the U.S. or Canada. To enter the contest, please email me at harvee44@yahoo.com with the email heading, FLASK CONTEST. The contest will run now through July 27. A winner will be notified by email on July 28 and will have two days to respond with a mailing address. TLC Book Tours will arrange for the mailing of the book to the winner. Good luck!

UPDATE: The winner, chosen at random, is Kay Stewart. Congratulations, and thanks to all who entered the contest. 


  1. Sounds like a different kind of cozy.

  2. I've seen this one around but for some reason it hasn't grabbed me. I think maybe because I know it is part of a series. Hope you enjoy it.
    I've never read any of these, but at least five of them are on my list. I'd forgotten all about 'Back Channel'.
    Today I'm featuring Orphan #8

  3. Sounds fascinating.

    Do you like books with dogs? Here’s my teaser from a mystery that I really enjoyed. Funny, fast moving and engaging: http://pdworkman.com/excerpt-from-dog-tags/

  4. This one sounds very interesting indeed. A samurai and a priest. Quite the interesting combination. Yes, I'd keep reading. :-)

  5. Sounds like a different mystery. I'll have to look for this series. My teaser this week comes from the urban fantasy Magic Lost Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin. Happy reading!

  6. Very unique! I love the excerpts and the book cover. Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

  7. I love stories about samurai! I will have to look for this one. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Ooh that definitely sounds good! I love it when a book drops you right into an unfamiliar situation and Japanese customs have always fascinated me. I might have to check this one out! Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have a great week!
    Juli @ Universe in Words

  9. This sounds very different from any mystery I've ever read... in a good way!

  10. What an intriguing sounding book - I like the opening very much!

  11. I don't think I could get into this one, sorry - hope u like it though.

  12. Thanks for visiting and commenting and for some of you, entering the giveaway contest. Not every kind of book is for everyone. I, for instance, will not read horror!

  13. I've recently started reading books set in this era and I'm really loving them. This series is on my list of things to read next!

    Thanks for being on the tour.


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