Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Formats: eBook, Hardcover
Series: Shinobi Mysteries (Volume 3)
Genre: Historical Mystery
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. A missing merchant, a vicious debt collector, and a female moneylender join Ginjiro and the victim's spendthrift son on the suspect list. 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. Will Hiro and Father Mateo unravel the clues in time to save Ginjiro's life, or will the shadows gathering over Kyoto consume the detectives as well as the brewer? Flask of the Drunken Master is the latest entry in Susan Spann's thrilling 16th century Japanese mystery series, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Jesuit Father Mateo.
Praise for Claws of the Cat"Spann matches period detail with a well-developed whodunit plot in her promising debut, the first in a new series set in 16th-century Japan."
Shinobi Mystery Series TitlesBook One: Claws of the Cat (Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month) Book Two: Blade of the Samurai Book Three: Flask of the Drunken Master
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The Giant Buddha and the Holy Fool
Japanese stories often contain a “foolish wise man”—often a monk—who seems to be crazy but now and then reveals a nugget of wisdom. This plays a large part in Zen culture, because many practitioners of Zen Buddhism believe that the “holy fool” has discovered the keys to releasing ego, desire, and attachment to the world – an important principle of Zen.
When I set out to write a mystery series set in Medieval Japan, I wanted to include a “holy fool,” both to parallel Japanese stories and also because I like reading books with characters whose depths are difficult to plumb. Is the monk truly foolish? Or is the real fool the person who takes him at face value?
In the first Shinobi Mystery, Claws of the Cat, I introduced Suke, a somewhat silly, freeloading monk who hangs around Ginjiro’s sake brewery, offering blessings to anyone kind enough to buy him a drink (a thousand blessings for a flask…). His balding head, toothless grin, and joyful spirit made him a favorite with me—and, fortunately, also with readers.
However, I knew from the start that Suke had more to do and say than merely sit on the floor and beg for sake. His kind-hearted, generous nature makes him loyal to those who show him kindness, even if his bumbling makes him a less than efficient “helper.” That’s why I knew that when Ginjiro the brewer ended up accused of murder—the basis for the newest Shinobi Mystery, Flask of the Drunken Master—Suke would stop at nothing to help my ninja detective, Hiro, clear Ginjiro’s name.
Unfortunately for Hiro, Suke’s investigative skills are about as sharp as a bowling ball, and he acts with all the subtlety of a tiger in a teahouse.
The result? An investigation that forces Hiro to juggle an amorous female debt collector, the dead man’s vengeful (but irresponsible) son, and a well-intentioned but often clueless monk determined to “help” at every turn.
Holy Fools, Batman.
During my recent trip to Japan, I had the chance to observe another form of holy foolery—in the form of the traditional passage through the Buddha’s Nostril at Todai-ji. Todai-ji (“Ji” means “Temple”) is a Buddhist temple in Nara, Japan, which houses the world’s largest bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana—or, in Japanese, “Daibutsu.” The statue is 49 feet tall and weighs over 500 tons.
A pillar inside the shrine that houses the Buddha has a hole the size of the Buddha’s nostril (square, and 18” in diameter) carved in the bottom. Legend and tradition say that anyone who can pass through the Buddha’s nostril will have a long and prosperous life and find enlightenment. People line up for the chance to attempt the feat.
For obvious reasons, most of the people who manage the passage are under five feet tall, and slender of build. The day we went to Todaiji, a businessman got stuck in the pillar and had to be extracted by his friends, with the help of the temple guards.
I took one look at the tiny hole and elected to bypass enlightenment in favor of dignity. I’m willing to play the fool at times, but I’d rather not be remembered for getting stuck in Daibutsu’s nostril. However, my son—who had spent the previous three months on a study abroad program at a college in Kyoto—opted to take the challenge.
He prevailed…and received a standing ovation from the dozens of onlookers crowded around to watch the 6’2” American try to wiggle through the Buddha’s nose.
Which proves that sometimes the holy fool turns out to know what he’s doing after all.
Susan Spann writes 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 a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the Month and a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel. BLADE OF THE SAMURAI released in 2014, and her third novel, FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER, releases on July 14, 2015. Susan is also a transactional attorney whose practice focuses on publishing law and business. When not writing or practicing law, she raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium. .
[Text and Photographs © 2015 Susan Spann]
Flask of the Drunken Master Blog Tour ScheduleMonday, July 6
Excerpt at What Is That Book About
Tuesday, July 7
Review at Book Babe
Wednesday, July 8
Guest Post & Giveaway at To Read, Or Not to Read
Spotlight & Giveaway at Raven Haired Girl
Thursday, July 9
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Friday, July 10
Guest Post & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Monday, July 13
Guest Post at Shelf Full of Books
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book
Tuesday, July 14
Review at Beth's Book Nook Blog
Thursday, July 16
Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Friday, July 17 Guest Post at Just One More Chapter
Monday, July 20
Guest Post & Giveaway at Booklover Book Reviews
Wednesday, July 22
Guest Post at Book Nerd
Review, Guest Post, & Giveaway at Queen of All She Reads
Thursday, July 23
Interview & Excerpt at Jorie Loves a Story
Friday, July 24
Guest Post at Book Dilettante
Monday, July 27
Guest Post at Reading the Past
Tuesday, July 28
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Thursday, July 30
Guest Post & Excerpt at at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews
Monday, August 3
Review at Svetlana's Reads and Views
Tuesday, August 4
Review at A Book Geek
Wednesday, August 5
Guest Post at Editing Pen
Thursday, August 6
Review at Diana's Book Reviews
Friday, August 7
Guest Post at Boom Baby Reviews