My name is Emi, and I am an actor’s daughter. My father, Satsu, acts in the chorus of the Yutoku-za, one of Kyoto’s most famous theater troupes, and my little brother Haru is the troupe’s most promising young performer. In fact, last week I overheard my grandfather say that Haru will inherit ownership of the entire troupe someday.
I am happy for Haru, but his success highlights my greatest sorrow.
You see, I act and sing far better than Haru, and from the time I learned to walk I wanted nothing more than to perform as part of my family’s troupe. But women cannot act on the stage in Japan in 1565, and so my dreams could never become reality.
I did not want to accept this truth, and continued to train as a singer and a dancer, determined to find a way to pursue my dream. But then, a couple of years ago, Father and Grandfather told me that I had learned as much as any actor’s wife should know. With the training I had, I could help my sons and my future husband—a man that, by custom, I would not get to choose.
My mother and my sister, Chou, tried to persuade me that I could be happy as a wife and mother—Chou said, “Girls like us . . . the best we can do is marry well and raise successful sons. Dreams of anything more lead only to sorrow.”
I didn’t believe her, and I had no intention of letting the men who control the Yutoku-za control my life as well, so I took matters into my own hands.
Secretly, I went to the women who had the power to change my life—wealthy, powerful women who own teahouses here in Kyoto and employ other women to work for them as dancers and entertainers. I tried to convince them to hire me, but they turned me away—and some of them even suggested I become a prostitute!
Some girls might have given up, but I’m not like most girls. Since I couldn’t get a job in a teahouse, I made another plan . . .
. . . but I was murdered before I could carry it out.
As I speak to you now in spirit, my body lies on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River. Dawn has broken, and the Kyoto police have forbidden an investigation because my status as an actor’s daughter makes me a person of no consequence.
Even in death, they claim my life means nothing.
But as it happens, not everyone in Kyoto agrees with that assessment. Two of the men who stand beside my corpse—a master ninja named Hiro Hattori and a Portuguese priest called Father Mateo—have chosen to defy tradition and the police, track down my killer, and bring me justice.
I wish them well, but regret that I cannot warn them of the dangers they will soon encounter. For my death, like everything else in the clandestine world of medieval Kyoto theater, is not what it initially seems to be.
The Ninja’s Daughter is the fourth installment of the Hiro Hattori/Shinobi Mystery series, and was released from Seventh Street Books on August 2, 2016.
Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.
As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival samurai threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace. Undeterred, Hiro and Father Mateo secretly investigate the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, their only clue a mysterious golden coin. The investigation soon reveals a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption that leaves both Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.
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Meet the author
Susan Spann is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year and the author of three previous novels in the Shinobi Mystery series: Claws of the Cat (a Library Journal Mystery Debut of the month and a Silver Falchion Finalist for best first novel), Blade of the Samurai, and Flask of the Drunken Master. She has a degree in Asian studies and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. When not writing or practicing law, she raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium. You can find Susan online at SusanSpann.com, on Twitter (@SusanSpann), and on Facebook.
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