A return to his home is a painful experience for a shinobi assassin.
Now that Hiro Hattori and the man he was hired to protect, Portuguese priest Father Mateo, have heeded a warning and left the dangers of Kyoto behind, they face new ones in Hiro’s home territory of Iga. The leader of Iga, Hiro’s cousin Hattori Hanzō, has invited them to attend a feast for the delegation from Koga, another shinobi stronghold, who have come to discuss an alliance that could be advantageous in the perilous times they face as the ruthless samurai warlord Oda Nabunaga tries to take over as shogun. The delegation includes Koga Yajiro, Koga Fuyu, Koga Toshi, and Kogo Kiku, a woman who appears to be concealing high status. Unfortunately, Yajiro dies at the table, a victim of poison, and the other Kogas immediately accuse someone from Iga of murder. Other people with access to the food are Neko, the lifelong love who betrayed Hiro; Hiro’s mother, Midori, who cooked the meal; his grandmother Akiko; and her apprentice, Tane, who helped serve it. Knowing the reputation of Hiro and Father Mateo as crime solvers, Hanzō guarantees that they will deliver the murderer within three days. Since Midori had personally prepared mild food that wouldn’t disguise the taste of a quick-acting poison, Hiro must look for another way that someone could have poisoned Yajiro. The members of the Koga delegation are at each other’s throats over the questions of what to do about a treaty and who killed their companion. Hiro finds the whole experience bittersweet, especially as secrets from his past are slowly revealed, changing the way he feels about Neko and his family. The complex rituals of Japanese life must be taken into account before the crime can be solved.
The two unlikely sleuths (The Ninja’s Daughter, 2016, etc.) once again solve a difficult crime, this one with the extra kick that comes from their own personal stake in its outcome.