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Claws of the Cat

(Shinobi Mystery #1)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  719 ratings  ·  209 reviews
May 1564: When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro has no desire to get involved. But the beautiful entertainer accused of the crime enlists the help of Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit Hiro is sworn to protect, leaving the master shinobi with just three days to find the killer in order to save the girl and the priest from execution.

Hardcover, 275 pages
Published July 16th 2013 by Minotaur Books
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Average rating 3.88  · 
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Dan Schwent
Mar 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
When a retired samurai is found murdered in a tea house, his son demands his honor be satisfied and he is bent on killing the tea house girl his father was found with. Jesuit priest Matteo stands up for Sayuri and buys her an additional three days of life while Hiro, his shinobi bodyguard, tracks down the real killer. But if Hiro can't, Matteo will be executed along with her...

Claws of the Cat is a historical mystery set in 16th century Japan. I don't remember where I first heard of it but a my
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Claws of the Cat was received as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

It is very rare for me to find a mystery worthy of 5 stars anymore; too many of them follow a cookie cutter pattern. So I was delighted to find that Susan Spann has broken the mold with Claws of the Cat and written an intriguing and fascinating mystery. Spann’s writing paints such a wonderful picture of Kyoto, Japan in the 16th century that the reader feels like they are there. Her characters are real and believable and the intera
Judith Starkston
Jul 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love books that take me to a time and place I know little about and then make that setting utterly real to me. When the author also spins a mystery that won’t let go of me, then I’ve found a great read: Susan Spann’s Claws of the Cat. Spann takes us to Japan during the period of samurais and limited contact with the West. Her two “sleuths” are a most unlikely pair. Hiro, a shinobi assassin (think ninjas for the most part), is living undercover as the protector of Father Mateo, a Jesuit priest ...more
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I confess novels set in Asia, either in China, Japan, India, or Malaysia, attract my attention more than other settings, and I have a tendency to pause and read more about the authors who write them, especially if they are not Asian and were not born into the culture. So when I met Susan Spann a few years ago and heard she wrote Japanese mystery, I just couldn't forget her, for she was not Japanese, to begin with.
I was curious to see how she would approach Hiro, the detective who's a shinobi, c
Anashi Sterling
Jul 11, 2013 rated it liked it
I won this book through the First Reads Giveaway.

I was hesitant to read this book at first because I am very fond of all things Japanese and as such, I tend to be very critical of things that are poorly researched or don't live up to my expectations of the culture.
This book was very well researched but sometimes I felt that the author was a little overly descriptive for no other reason than to prove that the research had been done.
That being said I did like the story line and found the mystery
Oct 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate enough to read this amazing jewel of historical fiction before it went off to the publishers. Ms. Spann's descriptions of 16th century Japan are as as clean as a well-swept bamboo floor and as delicate as a cherry blossom-scented breeze.

Hiro, the uh..hero-- of the story is a completely new type of character. A Ninja detective... I mean...Do I need to say more?

The relationship between Hiro and his charge, the Spanish Catholic priest, Father Mateo steals the show. And this in a no
Barbara ★
This was an enjoyable mystery and I liked the pairing of Hiro and Father Mateo though at times a tad bit religious for my taste. I would read the next book in the series to see if the religious vein continues.
Julianne Douglas
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
How much do you know about sixteenth century history outside the borders of Europe? If you're like me, surprisingly (and embarrassingly) little. As a remedy, I recommend a just-published historical mystery that opens up the exotic, fascinating world of sixteenth century Japan.

Susan Spann's debut mystery novel CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur/St. Martin's Press) whisks the reader away to the land of ninjas, teahouses, samurai and missionaries. Writing with the spare beauty of an oriental flower arrange
Tammy Salyer
Apr 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Admittedly, it’s been over a year since I read Susan Spann’s debut novel, Claws of the Cat. The biggest side effect (I know of, at least) of being a reader and writer for a living is that the constant Victoria Falls of new stories, characters, plots, and worlds that submerge my brain tend to make them all jumble and slosh into sometimes indistinguishable tales.

Not so with Claws of the Cat.

Set in Kyoto, Japan in the fifteen hundreds, Claws of the Cat is a crime fiction mystery and the story of t
Jul 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This new mystery series is set in 16th century Japan and is full of interesting new words and the culture of the times. The heroes are an interesting pair. Father Mateo, a Jesuit Priest, and Hero, a master shinobi ( what we think of as a ninja), who is sworn to protect the Father.

When a samurai is murdered in a local Kyota teahouse, the lovely young "entertainer" calls upon the Father to prove her innocence. The murdered man's son is furious and wants immediate revenge --the death of the enterta
Jun 20, 2014 rated it liked it
First in a new series. I really liked the setting- medieval Japan is not the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase "cozy mystery", but there it is. A Portugese priest and his shinobi bodyguard investigate the murder of a samurai at a local teahouse, where one of the priest's recent converts is the main suspect.

The writing style is spare, but I had no trouble imagining the setting. Tantalizing hints of Hiro's past are dropped, but frustratingly not followed up on; I am guessing
Heather Webb
Dec 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Claws of the Cat is a page-turning whodunit packed with sharp details that take the reader on a journey through 16th century Japan. Spann weaves a tight plot with a cast of unique characters with a deft hand. I can't wait to see how the ninja detective, Hiro, reveals more of his dark past as the series unfolds! ...more
Dec 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a cleverly plotted mystery and I enjoyed meeting the cast of characters. The unusual setting adds a special layer to the story and I definitely improved my limited knowledge of Japanese culture. I look forward to trying more books in the series.
Lisa Lieberman
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've spent a good deal of time studying suicide, both as a scholar and as a counselor on a suicide hotline. The ritual suicide (seppuku) in this book moved me, and that's saying a great deal. Suicides in novels are so often gratuitous; in real life, too, they can be manipulative gestures, a final effort at self-expression made with an audience very much in mind. Here the act was fitting, its tragedy all the more powerful for being understated (I will say no more, to avoid ruining things for read ...more
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Once again, Sienna finds a compelling book! I'm a sucker for "Far Eastern" stories -- to this day, that locution pisses me off: "far eastern" from the east-coast anglophile cohort, but for us californios, it our "near east." In so many ways, the ethos and mythos of Japan is as sympathetic as Europe's royalist history. In this book, the expansive and presumably well-informed (I'm not well-informed enough to be critical) use of Japanese terminology is exciting, and gives the book authority. I love ...more
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a series that I will look forward to reading. Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit in 16th century Japan, and his protector Hiro, a shinobi (ninja), are tasked with finding the murderer of a local samurai to clear a teahouse girl's name and save their own lives in the process. Mateo and Hiro are an interesting sleuthing team and their inquiries highlight the rigid social expectations and cultural taboos in the world of the samurai. ...more
May 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Sienna by: Bookbub
Shelves: read-2019
I always enjoy a new scene for an old favorite.
Laurence Westwood
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it
This was an immensely frustrating read. Set in Kyoto in 1564, a samurai is murdered in a tea house, the likely culprit a young Christian woman who is employed as an entertainer at the tea house. She enlists the help of Father Mateo, a Jesuit priest, and thereby – unwittingly – putting the priest’s life in danger also. Sworn to protect the priest, the master shinobi (ninja) Hiro, has three days to prove the young woman’s innocence and thereby save not only her life but also the life of Father Mat ...more
Mark Stevens
Jun 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
We’re in 16th century, medieval Japan. Kyoto. There’s a problem of the retired samurai who’s been violently attacked in a teahouse and left to die, his loincloth so soaked with blood that it is stuck to his hips. His throat is “ruined.” The vase holding hydrangeas is spattered with blood. The suspect list is short. At least, at first. There’s certainly an obvious suspect and there’s a nifty ticking clock—a local magistrate concedes to a few days of grace to figure out who wielded the knife and l ...more
Aimie Runyan
Sep 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This review delves into the world of Susan Spann’s CLAWS OF THE CAT. A Shinobi mystery set in the 1500s, my little historian’s heart was captivated. We have a cast of compelling characters:

Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest who is ministering to the Japanese people,
Matsui Hiro, his Shinobi bodyguard who also proves to be a worthy detective,
Sayuri, the beautiful entertainer who is a prime suspect for a murder
Akechi Hideyoshi: The samurai murdered in an upper class tea house
Akechi Nobuh
Aug 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, japan
Definitely not my favorite Japanese historical mystery and for multiple reasons. There was a lot of clunkiness in her attempt to create a mystery-solving duo made of one Portuguese priest and Japanese ninja. Spann started off by telling us that neither is yet fluent in the other's language, yet they constantly have sophisticated conversations in both. More thought was needed to make that believable. The problems continued with the way she tried to bring information about Japan into the narrative ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Absorbed in this page-turner, I had no idea how much I was learning about 16th century Japan until I finished the book. I admire the author's skill in achieving this result so elegantly. The reader really does need every bit of this information for maximum enjoyment, and at no time did it ever feel like a tedious slog through unnecessary data, or present me with anything I felt tempted to skip – quite the contrary, I would have been happy to pick up a sequel right away and learn more about this ...more
Marci Jefferson
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After reading an early review copy of Claws of the Cat, I give it five enthusiastic stars! Hiro lives up to the sound of his name as an undercover shinobi striving to fulfill his mission; protect the Portuguese priest Father Mateo. But sixteenth century Japan is fraught with war lords and ninja assassins, some who would stop at nothing to oust the foreign priest and his accompanying merchants. When a cold blooded murder at a local tea house is nearly blamed on Father Mateo, the victim’s family w ...more
I have mixed feelings. While the book provides a very detailed look at the customs and day-to-today life of feudal Japan, to me the characters sound like they’re from modern times. I was constantly having to remind myself that this was set in the 1500s. If you don’t mind the occasional modern turn of phrase, though, this book offers a satisfying glimpse into a little-known—to Westerners at least—world.
Janyre Tromp
Jul 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Set in the samurai era of Japan, this entertaining book kept my interest from start to finish. The author did a fabulous job of infusing the culture into the story without making it confusing for a Western reader unfamiliar with the setting. I'm a sucker for clean mysteries and odd settings. And it helps that the two sleuths are engaging and interesting. I wish Father Mateo were a bit more fleshed out, but I suspect that it is coming. A well-crafted first book. ...more
Steve Goble
Oct 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great period detail, a solid mystery and smooth prose. Very well researched.

A Western priest becomes embroiled in a murder when a young woman he has been teaching about Christianity is the prime suspect, and his ninja companion must help solve the crime to protect his friend. Engaging stuff, and I look forward to reading more in this series.
Sarah Schuelke
Jul 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved the mystery and the characters. I am excited to have a new series to read!
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
My late friend Ronna gave me this book to read about a year or so before she died in late December of 2014. Since the mystery discussion group that she and I shared is reviewing books from her list of favorites, this seemed like an ideal time to check it out.
In Kyoto, Japan of May 1564, Hiro has acted as translator and scribe for Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest, for eighteen months, but he is far more than the ronin (masterless samurai) most believe him to be. In truth, Hiro is a master
Feb 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Father Mateo Alvarez is a Portuguese Jesuit living in Kyoto in the 1500s. Sworn to protect him even at the cost of his life is shinobi and companion, Hiro, who was given this task after an unknown failure in his past life at Iga. Life is relatively quiet for the pair, until one morning when Father Mateo is summoned to a local teahouse where a guest was murdered. The suspected killer is the girl who was entertaining the man, a young woman named Sayuri, but she swears she did not do the deed and b ...more
Gerry O'Malley
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
The characters are interesting and well-developed, particularly the main character, Hiro, a samurai who also happens to be a ninja (or "shinobi" as the Japanese pronounce it). I would love to read more about this fascinating character, his background, his training, his motivation and his relationship with a Portuguese Jesuit priest. Is he a bodyguard? He seems to have been assigned to protect the priest as some form of punishment for an infraction of some kind, but the backstory is spotty and is ...more
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See similar books…
Author of the Hiro Hattori Novels (Shinobi Mysteries), featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo.

CLAWS OF THE CAT (Minotaur Books, 2013)
Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month
Silver Falchion Finalist: Best First Novel

BLADE OF THE SAMURAI (Minotaur Books, 2014)

FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER (Minotaur Books, July 2015)


Other books in the series

Shinobi Mystery (7 books)
  • Blade of the Samurai (Shinobi Mystery, #2)
  • Flask of the Drunken Master (Shinobi Mystery, #3)
  • The Ninja's Daughter (Shinobi Mystery, #4)
  • Betrayal at Iga (Shinobi Mystery #5)
  • Trial on Mount Koya (Shinobi Mystery #6)
  • Ghost of the Bamboo Road (Shinobi Mystery #7)

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