Who’s killing the Buddhist monks at a sacred mountain temple?
Ninja samurai Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo, the Portuguese priest he’s sworn to protect with his life, have journeyed in November 1565 to a Shingon temple high on Mount K?ya to deliver a warning. Hiro, who’s posing as Mateo’s translator, has a message for Ringa, a priest who’s also a spy for the Iga clan, to which Hiro belongs. Hiro and Father Mateo have escaped an attack on the Iga ryu, where Hiro’s longtime love was killed, filling him with rage and a thirst for revenge. Ringa has been charged with warning other Iga agents who stand in danger, but the first night Hiro and Father Mateo are at the temple, Ringa is murdered and his body posed as the Buddhist deity Fud? My?-?. Because the mountain is cut off from the world by a violent snowstorm, Hiro and Father Mateo (Betrayal at Iga, 2017, etc.) know that the murderer must be one of the priests or Soro, another visitor who’s arrived with a child. When Anan is the next to die, Hiro wonders whether someone plans to kill more priests and pose them all as the Kings of Hell, Buddhist judges of the afterlife. As Father Mateo becomes increasingly fascinated by what he’s learning about Buddhism and the priests question him about his own religion, tension mounts. The monks, who are all hiding secrets, would like to believe the killer is Soro, who Hiro thinks is lying about who he is. But would he bring along a child on such a murderous errand? As more deaths follow, Hiro becomes ever more certain that Father Mateo is also marked for death.
Spann’s homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None combines a puzzling mystery with a fascinating look at historical Buddhism.