Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Sensei” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Sensei (Connor Burke and Yamashita Sensei #1)

3.71  ·  Rating Details ·  371 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
In every case, the modus operandi is the same, and the only clue available is a cryptic message scrawled on the wall bearing the signature "Ronin" - the Japanese name for a masterless samurai.

Connor Burke, a part-time college teacher with a passion for the martial arts, is called in to help out with the investigation by his brother, an NYPD detective. With the help of his
Kindle Edition, 260 pages
Published August 1st 2011 by YMAA Publication Center (first published April 9th 2003)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Sensei, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Sensei

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Mar 25, 2013 John rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donohue's writing skill is superb, but there were a few things about SENSEI that bugged me and ultimately kept me from granting it four stars. The biggest problem with it is that Donohue wrote it in the format of a hard-boiled mystery, when it really should have been a straight-up thriller. Trust me, there's very little mystery to be found here. And the main character, martial arts student/expert Connor Burke, makes for a pretty lousy detective. I was two steps ahead of him the whole way, which ...more
Beth Camp
Mar 01, 2015 Beth Camp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OK, I loved it for pure entertainment -- plus that elusive energy that kept me caring about the characters and the story.

Donohue's SENSEI satisfies on many levels -- not only is the writing well-crafted with memorable images that delight, but the reader (if new to martial arts) is treated to both Japanese culture/tradition and the journey one takes to become a master -- all wrapped in a tightly plotted murder mystery. I enjoyed the unfolding the story, the thoughtful study of relationships betwe
Someone is going around and killing master martial artists. It's up to Professor Burke to fend them off.

This is a martial arts thriller that takes place in New York City. Those who like martial arts will like this.

I'm not sure there's much else to say. The characters are good, but I haven't read too many thrillers to compare it to. I enjoyed it, but maybe people more versed in the genre won't?
Apr 15, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
Of course, I wrote this, so I like it a bit....
Anthony walck
Jan 02, 2017 Anthony walck rated it it was amazing
Nicely done

A lot of respect to Mr. John Donohue. It is clear he is a student of the martial arts. I really enjoyed this book and am starting the next one. Thank you Mr. Donohue!
Nov 13, 2016 Ian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just fun if your a martial arts nerd. If you are not a martial arts nerd it probably is not a good action or murder mystery novel.
Sep 13, 2011 Betty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, kindle
His protagonist, Connor Burke, is a finely realized and interesting character with substantial depth, complex feelings and motivations, and is an unusual hybrid of both college professor and martial artist. Connor, a thinking man's hero, finds himself drawn into a police investigation because of his unusual background and expertise. All the characters are finely realized, the plot reasonably realistic, the atmosphere compelling, but it's the pacing of the novel that appeals to me the most. Much ...more
Nov 27, 2012 Dipanjan rated it liked it
Sensei is a typical Am-Jap story. This falls in the category of books that blend the American environment with Japanese philosophy. This is a story set in Brooklyn and is about the Japanese martial arts training community. It has a mix of Japanese martial arts with some NYPD cop drama. This book will remind you of some of the Hollywood Am-Jap movies like Red Sun, Black Rain, etc. There is no Yakuza in the story. This story is more about relationships between teacher and students, a touch of Japa ...more
David Fournier
Sep 29, 2011 David Fournier rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Adults
An exciting book with an even pace to the action that allows the auther John Donohue to do some good character building.

This is the beginning of a story about a NYC college professor (Connor Burke), trained in various forms of the martial arts and was accepted as a student of one of the premier sword master of Japan (formerly) approximately 3 yrs earlier. Some murders are committed by a former student of the sensei (Yamashita), when he was still in Japan. And the story takes off from there. Oh,
Oct 22, 2007 Rachel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Eh. I mean, I finished it in an afternoon so it's not like it was a waste of time, but overall it just wasn't that good. Maybe I don't really like mystery novels. But according to the book jacket, all his other works are martial arts how-to's, which might explain why I didn't flip for his fiction.

I got kind of excited when he started talking about the Japanese attitude toward gaijin but he said nothing original, nothing of note.

Fun fact: fighting the gym leaders in Pokemans is based on the anci
Nov 17, 2015 Charles rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Sensei: A Thriller" is an OK piece of edu-tainment. Its a crime novel about capturing a killer that includes a lesson on kendo.

The author's prose is wry and at times amusing: "Long Island in the summer is like the Mekong Delta, hot and humid, but with more concrete". This made reading the story easier. However, the story takes too long to develop and ends too quickly. The Japanese characters remain very stereotypical. Oddly, this book violates the Thriller formula, in that it has no female love
Aug 14, 2016 Carl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kung-fu
Ok, had high hopes for this book. Liked it very much, the main character Connor Burke is nicely understated kind of guy whose mastery of the martial arts is subtly explored in a graduated manner. We never know how accomplished he is until we need to and it is integral to the story.
The peripheral characters are handled well as is the interplay between Burke and his taciturn Sensei.
I tend to measure this genre of book to my all time favourite Martial arts stories by Marc Olden. The best one being
Julie Johnson
Apr 01, 2012 Julie Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this mystery, so much so I went on to read the sequel. A very detailed, almost poetical, description of martial arts training...yet so firmly grounded in reality...and in the main character, who is so impressively living in his life with a foot in both realms. He has a wry sense of humor and keen observational eye that I quite enjoyed. Lots of great characters, I love the cop duo...his brother, specifically. A nice balance between esoteric and real life, the esoteric never overw ...more
Mar 10, 2009 Drew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Someone who calls himself Ronin is going around and killing martial arts masters across the U.S. A New York detective asks his brother Connor Burke, a university professor and martial-arts student, for help. Connor recruits his own sensei Yamashita, and the two open their case of whoopass to solve this mystery and crack some heads.

This book reminds eclectic martial artists such as myself that traditional martial arts can still be fun.
Bert Edens
As a career martial artist, I was very excited to read this book. The martial arts elements are outstanding and very technically accurate. Unfortunately, the rest of the book, including the portrayal of many of the martial arts masters, is a series of one cliché after another.

I will definitely check out the other books, as I have seen reviews saying they get better, as you would expect (or at least hope :)) with any author.
Irene B.
Dec 15, 2012 Irene B. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Irene by: discovered author on YMAA website
Here you have a hardboiled detective story about two brothers--one a martial artist and the other a cop.
Connor, the martial artist, has probably been conked on the head a few too many times--he walks into some very obvious traps; nevertheless the plot and martial arts details keep the novel moving. I plan on reading the sequel to find out how things proceed for Connor and his sensei, Yamashita.
Oct 16, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Donohue puts together a fast-paced book with interesting, well thought-out characters and plot. Whether you're familiar with the martial arts of the Far East or not, the traditions and descriptions are well placed throughout. Great action and character development with an ending that doesn't leave you hanging earns four stars.
James Cutter
Oct 07, 2012 James Cutter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a pretty good book. The author does a good job exploring some traditional Japanese customs and rituals surrounding the martial arts. Having lived in Japan, I was interested in the book primarily for this reason and the author did not disappoint. The book is a very good murder mystery thriller and a commendable first book for the author. I will purchase more books my John Donohue.
Connor Burke is a college teacher who studies martial arts. He is currently working with a very good swordmaster. His brother, a NYPD detective, calls him in as a consultant on a case involving a murdered martial arts teacher/sensei.

Conner Burke is very unsure of himself. His sensei uses the events in the murder case to try to move Conner from being a kendo student to being a warrior/fighter.
This book had a poor ending. It started off with some promise about an American martial arts student who is a loner and lives a different lifestyle. I don't want to put a spoiler in here, but they build up all through the book about a confrontation and the end is just flat. It could have been a much better ending.
Diana Duncan
Aug 17, 2012 Diana Duncan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, read-2012
I really enjoyed this thriller. Before reading it, I knew absolutely nothing about Japanese martial arts culture and plot revolving around martial arts fascinated me. I thought the author did a great job in his portrayal of the main character and his relationships with his teacher and his brother, the cop. Maybe a little predictable at the end, but thoroughly enjoyable.
Temple Dog
Okay, this was certainly not a challenging book. It was merely a summer read and something to relax my mind from my usual non-fiction fare.

The dialogue is rather clichéd and unfortunately predictable, but if you can turn your brain off for a few mindless hours, it's a nice little read.

Jun 12, 2013 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not usually into thrillers or mysteries...but this one was really good. The characters and cultural details were interesting, and the writing was very good. Highly recommend, especially if you are into martial arts.
May 25, 2016 Faith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were some definite plot issues in this first novel of the series by John Donohue. Aside from that I like a lot of the martial concepts in this and being an Aikido practitioner for 13 years some of this really called to me. I'm hoping John's writing gets better as the series progresses.
Feb 23, 2011 Philip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a sucker for martial arts thrillers and this book did not disappoint. There was a great balance of intrigue and story, the fight scenes were described well and the attention to detail was very enjoyable.
A great book and a must read for any fan of Martial Arts.
Jul 16, 2012 VickiLee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
This novel is the first of three. It focuses on the world of martial arts and its strict rules of obedience to the Sensei. Within this world steps a killer and the lives of powerful sensei are threatened and destroyed.
A martial arts thriller written by someone who actually understands the art he is writing about! (The series gets even better too!)
Charles Baker
Dec 20, 2014 Charles Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery, thriller
Pretty good first novel from an experienced writer. The mystery was okay. Enjoyed the peek into the world of elite martial artists, particularly those practicing kendo and the sword.
Jan 01, 2015 Tom rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, I'd call it a 50/50 cross between Laurence Block and Bruce Lee. but it also has a magic that makes it more than that. A powerful/spiritual edge. I'm hooked into reading the rest for sure.
Jun 11, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone into Kendo should like this series. And Mister Donohue adds snippets of Bushido to his stories.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Japanese Novel an...: Sensei Group Read 15 18 Jul 22, 2016 01:22PM  
  • Capitol Reflections
  • The Trouble With Green
  • Chosen (Line of Descent #1)
  • The Dead Saint
  • Scoop
  • Diagnosis Death (Prescription for Trouble, #3)
  • A Sudden Dawn
  • Ransomed Dreams (Side Roads #1)
  • The Company of Fellows
  • Deadly Blessings (An Alex St. James Mystery #1)
  • The Fallen (Derek Stillwater, #3)
  • Death on an Autumn River (Sugawara Akitada #9)
  • Penumbra
  • The Perfect Plan
  • Fortunes of War
  • The Samurai Strategy
  • Cold Turkey (Events Unlimited, #1)
  • Final Vector
John Donohue is a novelist and martial artist whose novels in the Burke Yamashita series, Sensei, Deshi, Tengu and the forthcoming (July 2011) Kage all explore the world of elite martial arts training and the implications of a life of action
More about John Donohue...

Other Books in the Series

Connor Burke and Yamashita Sensei (4 books)
  • Deshi: A Martial Arts Thriller
  • Tengu: The Mountain Goblin
  • Kage: The Shadow

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“Even in the washed out light of that place, the tears in Micky’s eyes glittered like the last sparks of a dying star.” 1 likes
More quotes…