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Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

Flask of the Drunken Master is the third book in the Shinobi Mystery series. It takes place in 16th century Japan and our main characters are a Jesuit priest and a Shinobi (ninja)–the priest’s bodyguard disguised as his interpreter.

Hiro and Father Mateo are walking through Kyoto one morning when they see a commotion.  There appears to be something going on in front of Ginjiro’s shop. Turns out there is a dead guy in the back. Ginjiro is a brewer and the dead man is one of his competitors. It appears to the local magistrate that Ginjiro did the deed and he is taken into custody.  Hiro is pretty sure the man is innocent and besides, he owes him from a favor given earlier. Father Mateo just does not like seeing injustice. So the two decide to help the investigator, whether he wants it or not, to find the truth of the matter.

A recent death of the reigning warlord has left a power gap. The current interim governor is flexing his muscle and has samurais all over the city, in a show of force, challenging people in the name of preventing spies and assassins. This adds a little drama to the investigation.

There is an interesting relationship between our two investigators. Hiro is a samurai and as such there are just somethings not said, and many that should ‘never’ be asked. Father Mateo is a curious European and a man earnest in his vocation. This dynamic works well for the investigative duo–Hiro understands his culture, and Father Mateo can ask questions as a foreigner that would be inappropriate for a samurai.

I really enjoyed this book and it is the first one I’ve read that takes place during that time frame in Japan. It felt real to me and it was fun following a Jesuit priest around feudal Kyoto. Hiro’s internal dialogue was enlightening as well as entertaining.  I think I would classify this in the realm of cozy mysteries, even though it takes place in Japan. I already have the first two books on my Amazon wishlist!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review and giveaway copies were provided by Minotaur Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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