Today is release day for the newest Hiro Hattori mystery, TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA!
Every book I write becomes my new favorite, and this one is no exception. I consider KOYA my dual love letter to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE (one of my favorite books, growing up) and one of Japan’s most sacred peaks. Koyasan (aka Mount Koya) is the heart of Shingon–esoteric–Buddhism in Japan. It’s a place where history, natural beauty, culture, religion, and some of the best food on the planet converge, and I fell in love with this holy place the first time I visited (on a whim, though I knew within hours that I’d be setting a book here eventually).
I use “here” in the previous sentence because I’m spending release day, and the day after, hiking and climbing on Koyasan, and revisiting the places that inspired the locations in the book. As soon as I arrived, just after noon, I hiked to the top of Bentendake, one of the peaks that surround Koya’s summit.
From there, I followed the historical “women’s trail” down the mountainside to the Daimon, or “Great Gate” – the official entrance to Koyasan, which was forbidden to women until the 19th century. As a symbolic gesture, I left the women’s trail at that point, bowed to pay my respects, and crossed through the gate on behalf of all the women who could not enter the sacred space during their lifetimes.
While on Koya, I’m staying at Ekoin, a thousand year-old Buddhist temple. Although Myo-in, the temple in the novel, has a similar layout to Ekoin, Myo-in is entirely fictitious. Except for the fan and suitcase, however, this room is not very different from the one where my detectives, Hiro and Father Mateo, might have stayed on a visit to Koyasan during the 16th century.
In Trial on Mount Koya, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo carry a message to a ninja spy hiding on Koyasan, only to find themselves trapped on the peak in a snowstorm with a killer who’s murdering Shingon priests and posing his victims as the Buddhist judges of the afterlife.
In an ironic twist, the weather report on Koya calls for thunderstorms starting in the middle of the night tonight (the night I arrived) and continuing for the next two days. Ordinarily, I might find that frustrating. Today? I call it poetic justice. I also call it the makings of some very atmospheric photographs.
I’ll share them–and more about Koyasan–in the weeks to come. I hope to get some added to this post later today – but the storm is impacting the internet service here on Koya, and I can’t get them uploaded for the initial post.
I only hope my stay is substantially less exciting than Hiro and Father Mateo’s adventure. Releasing a book is excitement enough for me!
What’s your favorite sacred or powerful place to visit? What place in the world inspires you the most?