In the I Read/I Wrote series, authors introduce a book they loved–in the genre in which they write–and share one of their own books.
GENRE: Asian History Mystery
I READ: Trial on Mount Koya, A Hiro Hattori Novel by Susan Spann
Hiro Hattori is a ninja assassin, hired by an anonymous benefactor to guard Portuguese Jesuit priest Father Mateo in Sixteenth Century Japan. This book is set during a snowstorm in a temple on Mount Koya, one of Japan’s most sacred peaks, where the temple’s priests are murdered and posed as the Buddhist Judge Kings of the Afterlife.
I love reading Asian history mysteries because I don’t know much about Asian history and I love learning without feeling that I’m studying. I also prefer traditional murder mysteries where lots of people die without anyone getting too viciously hurt on the page and I can enjoy unraveling relationships and motives.
I’ve fallen in love with the ‘Warring States’ Japan in these books. The cultural details feel authentic and universal and timeless power struggles and relationships are easier to recognise at a remove.
I’m also impressed by the thoroughness of Spann’s research. I’m going to try to sneak in a photo from her website here (if Cynthia lets me get away with it) that shows the nyonindo, or women’s hall, at the top of the pilgrim trail up Mount Koya where Hiro and Father Mateo would have started the climb to the temple at the holy summit where this book takes place.
I WROTE: The Betel Nut Tree Mystery
“What we came to think of as the betel nut affair began in the middle of a tropical thunderstorm in December 1937 . . .”
Singapore is agog with the news of King Edward VIII’s abdication to marry American heiress Wallis Simpson. Chen Su Lin, now Chief Inspector Le Froy’s secretarial assistant in Singapore’s newly formed detective unit, still dreams of becoming a journalist and hopes to cover the story when the Hon Victor Glossop announces he is marrying an American widow of his own, Mrs Nicole Covington, in the Colony. But things go horribly wrong when Victor
Glossop is found dead, his body covered in bizarre symbols and soaked in betel nut juice.
The beautiful, highly-strung Nicole claims it’s her fault he’s dead . . . just like the others. And when investigations into her past reveal a dead lover, as well as a husband, the case against her appears to be stacking up. Begrudgingly on Le Froy’s part, Su Lin agrees to chaperone Nicole at the Farquhar Hotel, intending to get the truth out of her somehow. But as she uncovers secrets and further deaths occur, Su Lin realises she may not be able to save Nicole’s life–or even her own.
Ovidia Yu was born in, lives in and writes about Singapore and is the author of the Aunty Lee Mysteries and the Crown Colony Crime Mysteries. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.
For more information, please visit www.ovidiayu.com.