“In Pandian’s highly entertaining, fast-paced fifth outing for spunky historian Jaya Jones, Jaya flies from her native San Francisco to Kyoto, Japan…As usual, Pandian dishes up authentic history and cultural tidbits along with a first-class mystery. She also adds just the right light touch of romance.” – Publishers Weekly
A fabled illusion performed by a stage magician who claims to possess real supernatural powers. A treasure from the colonial era in India when international supremacies vied for power. A phantom trading ship lost over 200 years ago. And a ninja whose murderous intentions in present-day Japan connect the deeds of a long-dead trader who was much more than he seemed…
When Jaya travels from San Francisco to Japan with her stage magician best friend Sanjay—a.k.a. The Hindi Houdini—for his Japanese debut, she jumps at the chance to pursue her own research that could solve a tantalizing centuries-old mystery.
With the colorful autumn leaves of historic Kyoto falling around her, Jaya soon loses sight of what’s real and what’s a deception. A mysterious ninja attempts to sabotage Sanjay’s trick, along with Japan’s most controversial magician, Akira. Ancient folklore blurs the lines between illusion and reality when a magician’s assistant appears to be a kitsune, a mythical fox spirit. As tricks escalate to murder, Jaya and her friends must unravel secrets hidden in the ancient capital of Japan, before one of their own becomes the next victim.
“A beautifully complex, fast-paced mystery—a well-crafted blend of modern magic and ancient secrets, full of compelling characters and set in one of Japan’s most beautiful—and mysterious—locations.” – Susan Spann, Author of the Hiro Hattori Mysteries
Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), action adventure, murder mystery series, book club recommendations, amateur sleuth books, international mysteries.
Books in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Series:
FOOL’S GOLD (novella in OTHER PEOPLE'S BAGGAGE)
PIRATE VISHNU (#2)
MICHELANGELO’S GHOST (#4)
THE NINJA’S ILLUSION (#5)
Part of the Henery Press Mystery Series Collection, if you like one, you'll probably like them all.
USA Today bestselling author Gigi Pandian is the child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India. She spent her childhood being dragged around the world, and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Gigi writes the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries, the Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and locked-room mystery short stories. Gigi’s fiction has been awarded the Malice Domestic Grant and Lefty Awards, and been nominated for Macavity and Agatha Awards. Find her online at www.gigipandian.com.
Read an Excerpt
I'm better at finding lost treasures than a phone buried in the bottom of my bag. Handwritten notecards for my lecture. A granola bar squished nearly as thin as a hand-pressed sheet of parchment. A magnifying glass. But no phone.
My students had kept me after class asking questions. Normally having engaged students was a wonderful thing. But not today. The text message I'd received before class told me this was urgent. He'd be calling any minute now.
I rushed through the building, hoping I didn't crash into any of the students who filled the hallway. With only two days to go before a week off for Thanksgiving break, a flurry of academic activity was keeping us busy. I wanted to answer the call privately inside my office, but this was taking too long. He was a stickler for promptness. Accurate timing meant the difference between life and death in his act.
I stopped next to a corkboard adorned with colorful flyers and rooted through my bag. A light from my phone illuminated the depths of the cavernous red messenger bag. I smiled as I saw the face of my best friend on the screen. In the photo, his thick black hair was partially obscured by his bowler hat, and a mischievous smile hovered on his lips.
"How goes it, Houdini?" I said as I answered the video call. I thought that would get a smile out of him. I never called him by his stage name, The Hindi Houdini.
"Don't get on the flight, Jaya," Sanjay said. "Don't come to Japan."
I stared back at the video image on the small screen, my smile wavering. "What are you talking about? I've got my ticket for the day after tomorrow."
"There's something —" He stopped speaking and glanced nervously over his shoulder. When he spoke again, his voice was quieter. "There's something odd going on here. You're not going to believe me, but I'm serious. Someone is —"
His voice broke off in the middle of the sentence. The screen went dark.
"Sanjay?" I said to a blank screen.
I tried calling him back as I walked to my office. He didn't answer.
Seeing the scowl on my face, the undergraduate students in the hallway parted to let me pass. Surely it was just a dropped signal. Sanjay was on the other side of the world from San Francisco, after all. But what had he been trying to tell me?
"Lecture bombed?" a voice next to me asked.
I jumped and dropped the phone. Why was I so shaken by Sanjay's call? He made his living as a performer. He was bound to be dramatic. I told myself that's all it was. But that look on his face ... It was difficult to believe the rational part of my brain.
"No," I said, picking up the phone. "Class went great."
"If this is what you look like after a good lecture," Tamarind said, "I'd hate to see you when a class goes badly. Your face is pale. Good thing I brought caffeine." The librarian smiled as she held up two paper cups of coffee, their lids covered in raindrops.
Tamarind Ortega had been hired at the university library two years before, after completing her Library Science Master's degree. She was a brilliant librarian who knew how to track down even the most obscure information, but the library staff also appreciated her size and temperament. Big-boned with clothing that indicated she was not to be messed with, the post-feminist post-punk was five feet ten inches of tough love. Our university was in the heart of San Francisco, and colorful characters who weren't students would sometimes wander into the library. Tamarind was great at relating to people the other librarians didn't want to deal with, and she wasn't afraid of using her strength and size as an implicit threat if disruptive people didn't leave the library. We met shortly after I got my job as an assistant professor. As two women starting out in academia who didn't fit conventional expectations, we'd quickly become friends.
I unlocked the door to my office. My six-foot Ganesha statue and his broken tusk greeted us. I'd fallen in love with the statue in a craftsman's workshop in Kochi, India. Lane Peters, the man whose presence never failed to make me feel more alive, had noticed my reaction to it and bought it for me. Tamarind handed me one of the coffees and set the other in front of Ganesha. I'd told her repeatedly it wasn't necessary, but she said it couldn't hurt.
"It's not the lecture," I said as I looked for a safe spot on my cluttered desk to set the coffee. "I'm distracted. Sanjay called me for a video chat, but we got disconnected."
"Bummer. I'm sure he'll call you back when he gets a signal."
The phone was still clasped in my hand. I willed Sanjay to call me back. What had he seen over his shoulder?
"Let me try him one more time." I deposited my bag underneath the messy desk and tried him again. I once again failed to reach him. I flopped dejectedly into the desk chair. It squeaked more miserably than usual, as if commiserating.
"Spill," Tamarind said. "What's going on?"
What was going on? I took a sip of coffee to give myself a moment to gather my thoughts. I smiled at Tamarind. "You remembered I like four sugars."
"Oops. I put in six. Hey, stop avoiding the question. Spill."
I looked out my small sliver of a window at the gray sky and misty rain. "You know Sanjay is performing as the opening act in an Indian Rope Trick show in Kyoto next week. The fabled illusion that's supposedly impossible."
Sanjay was a professional stage magician — an incredibly successful one. Performing as The Hindi Houdini, he'd been doing his show at a theater in the Napa Valley until a California wildfire last summer had burned the theater to the ground. He didn't have a backup plan, so after the theater where he'd established his career was destroyed, he didn't know what to do with himself. An invitation from Akira, Japan's most famous stage magician, came at the perfect time. Sanjay was aimless and vulnerable. The controversial magician who claimed to perform real miracles had swept in to take advantage of the situation to fill a hole in his new show. With a much more scrupulous magician friend in Japan, Sanjay could have been doing a show where the theatrics remained on the stage. Unfortunately, his friend Hiro's career wasn't doing nearly as well as Akira's, so Hiro hadn't been the one to extend an offer.
Tamarind nodded. "That's old news, Jaya. Why do you look so freaked out about it?"
"Sanjay texted me earlier, saying he needed to tell me something urgent. When he called, he said something 'odd' was going on." Goosebumps swept over my arms as I remembered Sanjay's face. "He told me not to come to Japan."
"Shut. Up. Why would he say that?"
I bit my lip. "He looked over his shoulder ... and the connection went dead." I gripped the paper coffee cup so hard that coffee splashed onto a stack of papers.
"Seriously?" Tamarind gaped at me as she tossed me a box of tissues from my bookshelf. "Of course you're serious. You don't have that kind of sense of humor. But Sanjay does. He's messing with you. I'm all for pulling a good practical joke on one's friends, but if he could see how tense he's making you, he'd call you back."
"This isn't a joke. It's not only what he said to me today. Sanjay was desperate to sign onto this gig, but it made him uneasy. Something has been weighing on him since the first time Akira contacted him. But he wouldn't talk about it."
That, I realized, was why Sanjay's dropped call had been so unsettling. He was already nervous about something. Something he wasn't telling me.
"Because of Akira's reputation as someone who possesses real supernatural powers?" Tamarind asked.
"That's part of it. Akira cons people into believing he performs real miracles. But Sanjay already knew that about him when he signed on. Something changed."
"Let's ask my assistant." Tamarind enunciated as she spoke into her phone. "What has Japanese magician Akira done this week?" She frowned at her phone and shook her head. "No public scandals to speak of. Oh, but here's something worth our time."
Tamarind grinned as the sound of a Japanese pop song filled my office. She held up a music video with four teenage boys dancing on a stage and thousands of fans in a stadium audience.
"There's so much happening on this screen right now," I said, "I think I might have a seizure." Small rectangles with additional videos played in both the top left and lower right corners of the screen, in addition to text that scrolled across the bottom.
"That's the norm with Japanese television. It engages all the senses. But I don't know how you can look at anything else besides that beautiful face of his. Akira is the one with silky-smooth long hair."
"He looks like he's sixteen."
"This video is from more than a decade ago. So my reaction is totally age appropriate. I'm not really into J-pop, though, so I don't know the story of why the boy band broke up. But that's when Akira became a magician."
"Sanjay told me how it took Akira a while to make it as a magician. Challenging starts to their magic careers is one thing they have in common."
"Sanjay never had an accident like Akira's, though."
Tamarind began dancing to the catchy song. I took the phone and silenced it.
She sighed. "Sanjay didn't tell you?"
I shook my head.
"All I know," Tamarind said, "is that a few years ago, Akira nearly died. It was an accident in his show — and it looked like he was dead. The press initially thought it was a publicity stunt, but when it took him a whole year to recover, and he returned with a crippled hand, everyone realized it wasn't. He lost the use of his left hand, but he gained something else. He came back with the power to perform miracles."
"He doesn't really perform miracles."
Tamarind shrugged. "He's much more famous now. And he has legions of fans who believe he does."
"I know. And that's how he claims he's going to pull off performing the 'impossible' Indian Rope Trick. I don't understand how Sanjay convinced himself it was okay to work with Akira."
"Sure you do."
"Ambition, Jaya. That hunky best pal of yours has got more of it than anyone I know."
"I know Sanjay is ambitious," I said. "I wouldn't be so worried if that's all it was."
What was so dire that had him looking over his shoulder and telling me not to join him in Japan? Sanjay had escaped from a coffin sinking to the bottom of the Ganges. He'd kept his wits when there was a mishap during a stunt where he was buried alive. I'd never seen him nervous about a performance.
Until now.CHAPTER 2
"You need a distraction until Sanjay calls you back," Tamarind said. "That's why I'm here, after all."
"No, not really. I'm delivering a message from Miles that he was too scared to give you himself. He's not going to get caught up before you leave for Japan."
I'd recently hired my underemployed poet neighbor, Miles, as my part-time assistant. I hadn't been able to keep up with the email messages and letters people had been sending me since I'd helped find treasures from India that had been lost for centuries. After missing an important message over the summer, I knew I needed help. Tamarind was dating Miles after they met through me, and she'd suggested the idea.
"I'm behind too." I pointed to the stack of papers I'd just spilled coffee on. Several of the people who got in touch with me had serious ideas that merited a personal response from me, not simply a polite form letter from Miles.
"You're replying to all these yourself?"
"An academic in south India thinks he may have stumbled across a temple cache like the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum." It was easy enough to refer to Bombay as its reclaimed name Mumbai, Madras as Chennai, and Calcutta as Kolkata, but the south Indian city of Thiruvananthapuram was a mouthful in casual conversation. "And a retired businessman found a buried hoard of coins in his backyard in Texas when he began gardening."
"Since when did you become that kind of treasure hunter, Jaya?"
"The coins had Sanskrit writing on them."
"Obviously neither one is my kind of thing. But I need to figure out who to put them in touch with. And then there are people like Dr. Nakamura, a professor I met at a history conference a few years ago. He has some questions about my work on East India Company trade routes in Europe and Asia. It's my specialty, so I can't punt him to someone else."
"You're too responsible for your own good."
"Says the person who trekked across campus in the rain. You didn't have to give me Miles's message in person."
"The real reason I wanted to come," she said, "is because I found this." She reached into her plaid backpack and held up a hardback book with library markings in the corner.
She opened the book to a full-page reproduction of a magic poster from the early 1900s. "Ta-da. May I present the most magical illusion the world has ever known: The Indian Rope Trick."
The illustrated poster was filled with vivid reds and bright yellows. Framing the poster was the arch of a Mughal palace, and the Taj Mahal was visible in the distance. In the center, a young Indian boy climbed a rope that stretched to the sky from a woven basket. At the bottom of the poster, a conjuror waved his hands in the air, directing the magical feat.
"Pretty cool, huh?" she said. "This is one of the oldest posters advertising the trick. I couldn't resist looking it up when you told me where you were going. I also found an eyewitness account."
"There aren't any real eye-witness accounts. Since the Indian Rope Trick is impossible and hasn't been performed in its true form."
"You doubt me, Jaya?" Tamarind asked with a grin. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them and spoke, her voice was that of a different person. One with a faux British accent.
"The most famous illusion in the world, and I saw it with my own eyes, I did. There I was in a dusty open field outside New Delhi, the stifling sun beating down on us." She glanced down at the book in her hands before resuming the story. "A wisp of a boy gathered us Westerners together. He explained we were about to witness the most amazing things we'd ever beheld. My friend and I crept closer. It was then we saw the old man with a white beard that reached his heart. But Jaya, what a black heart it was."
Her kohl-lined eyes grew wide with mock horror. It was a superb performance, and I found myself successfully distracted from my worries.
Her voice fell to a stage whisper. "This was the great magician to whom the boy was enslaved. Once a dozen of us were gathered around the two of them, the black-hearted magician showed us a wicker basket, about two feet high, empty except for a coil of thick rope. The magician lifted the rope from the basket and tossed it into the air. To my surprise, the rope stayed there, hovering in the air." Tamarind glanced again at the book. My gaze followed hers, and I noticed for the first time how modern the book was. I found myself disappointed it wasn't a centuries-old book containing a real eye-witness account.
"We weren't near any buildings, Jaya," she continued. "It was an open field. You can imagine how much my heart raced. It nearly popped out of my chest at what happened next." She picked up one of the figurines that cluttered half my desk, small tokens of appreciation from people I'd helped or who hoped I'd help them. Tamarind selected the palm-sized Leprechaun. "The small boy climbed up the rope suspended in midair. My friend is an artist, so he began to sketch the amazing scene before us. I took a photograph. I was glad I did, because a moment later, two of the most unimaginable things occurred." She paused, meeting my gaze, as if daring me to ask her to continue.
"I'll bite. What happened?"
"The boy disappeared. Into. Thin. Air. As soon as he reached the top of the rope, high above us, he simply vanished." She unsurreptitiously flung the Leprechaun into the plaid backpack at her feet. "The magician became angered at this, so he climbed up the rope after the boy — with a machete in his hand." She stepped forward, brandishing a Swiss army knife. "The magician climbed higher and higher, then disappeared at the top of the rope as well, along with his machete. But from the ground below, we could hear them arguing. I didn't understand the language they were speaking, but it was clear they were fighting."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Ninja's Illusion"
Copyright © 2017 Gigi Pandian.
Excerpted by permission of Henery Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When I read Michaelangelo's Ghost last year, I absolutely loved it. It was the first book by Gigi that I'd read, but knew it wouldn't be the last! I was so excited when my wish to review The Ninja's Illusion was granted! I loved this one just as much. The characters are so much fun, and I loved this mysterious storyline. It definitely kept me guessing until the very end. I love it when books do that! I highly recommend this author and this series! If you have time, you should start at the beginning of the series, but you can read this as a stand alone. I just think it's more fun when you know a bit about the characters. If you're a fan of mystery books with great characters, you'll love The Ninja's Illusion!
What a marvelous ride! This is an action packed adventure with lots of history woven in. Jaya is fascinating. We get more insight into her, and Sanjay, and Lane. Great magicians. Spectacular tricks. A terrific read.
“The Ninja’s Illusion” by Gigi Pandiana is the fifth book in the “Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt” series. It is not necessary to have read the previous books in the series because the author provides quick background comments in the context of the storyline to fill in anything needed from the previous books. However, as a new reader I had to spend some time sorting out all the players. This story is about magic, stage magic with all its redirection, illusion, and trickery. Jaya, the main character, travels to Japan with her stage magician friend, Sanjay. While there, she researches a tantalizing centuries-old mystery. Clues abound, but just like stage magic, distractions abound as well. Jaya and her friends struggle to find answers as secrets from both the past and the present converge. The characters are interesting and likeable. Pandian’s vivid descriptions create an exotic and genuine sense of place by interweaving abundant Japanese culture, traditions, and folklore into the plot. The pace is generally fast with only a few slower sections. I received a copy of “The Ninja’s Illusion” from Gigi Pandian, Henery Press, and NetGalley. I found the story interesting even though I had not read any of the previous books. I enjoyed reading “The Ninja’s Illusion,” and now I must go back and find the treasures in the other books in the series.
everything I could ask for in a book THE NINJA'S ILLUSION by Gigi Pandian The Fifth Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery Jaya Jones is overwhelmed with requests for help, both in historical research and treasure hunting. When Dr. Nakamura has questions about her work on the East India trade routes she decides to go to Japan in person. It's the perfect time as her best friend Sanjay, the Hindi Houdini, is also in Japan working with a controversial stage magician who supposedly can perform real miracles. But when Sanjay tells her not to come and the video call is prematurely disconnected, Jaya gets worried. Sure, Sanjay can be overdramatic, but something in his expression and voice said the danger was very real. Now Jaya is off on another adventure filled with history, peril, and treasure! I always get excited when I hear that a new Jaya Jones mystery is being released, but when I discovered her latest would take her to Japan I was positively giddy! I'm fascinated by Japanese culture and traditions and they are entwined in this novel with dexterity. Illusion, deception, betrayal, and ninjas! All that and more can be found in this fifth Jaya Jones adventure. Gigi Pandian once again makes history come alive with stories, both past and present. rich in detail, filled with vivid descriptions and compelling characters. With slight of hand and misdirection the center of the magicians' universe these characters, magician or not, are forced to look deeply within themselves and decide if who they see is who they truly want to be. Which persona is the true self? Are they willing to accept their own truth and, if so, at what cost? THE NINJA'S ILLUSION is more than a compelling mystery. It's a serious character study and a fascinating historical story amid the intriguing backdrop of Japan. It also has plenty of humor and lots of action. In short, THE NINJA'S ILLUSION delivers everything I could ask for in a book. FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a digital ARC provided through NetGalley, in the hopes I would review it.
murder, mystery, myths-legends, Japanese lore, fakir lore, illusionists, history and culture, historical places events Meet Jaya Jones, history professor extraordinaire and several of her friends. Tamarind is a very brilliant and colorful college librarian, Sanjay is a wacky magician who failed law school only to become an accomplished magician with roots in India, now working with an egomaniac magician in Japan. Murder, a mysterious fakir magic trick no one can seem to replicate, and interpersonal issues make for a riveting read. There are lots of plot twists, and the misdirection is not only on the stage. Of course, there is the suspense, humor, snarkiness, action, and history insights that we love and expect. The publisher's blurb give clues, but can't begin to prepare you for the addictive nature of the book that seems to demand that it be read in one sitting! Thank you, NetGalley, for the opportunity to receive this gift from the publisher!
As I have come to expect since Book 1, this story had an interesting mystery with just the right amount of historical details to add flavor. I also appreciate the beautiful countries that the author gives us insight into with each new book. I am really invested in the core characters in this series so it was wonderful revisiting many of the beloved characters from previous books as well as meeting new ones. I have loved Jaya and Lane from the moment they met in Book 1 because they make an incredible couple and team. This was evident when Lane was able to help Jaya see the answers she had but hadn't yet pieced together. I am looking forward to the next book in the series because I have so many questions that I am hoping will get answered. I am also looking forward to both Lane's and Jaya's reaction to the reappearance of the expected guest at Jaya'a home. For now, I will just be counting down the days until the audio-book for The Ninja's Illusion is available because the only thing better than reading the stories is to enjoy them in the audio-book format. I received a free, advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review.
I was randomly selected to receive this as an ARC from NetGalley. This is my honest review of it. I love the Jaya Jones series and was anxious to read this one. It never disappointed. Each time Jaya gets involved in treasure hunts, the locations and history used makes you want to see those places. The Fushimi Imari shrine drew me in this time. But aside from that, Gigi does an exceptional job in writing a mystery that has you trying to figure it out right up to the very end. And the way this one ends, I'm curious what her next exploit will be. I first read about Jaya in the prequel Fool's Gold in Other People's Baggage. After that, I've read all the books in the series. I think you'll enjoy reading about Jaya and her friends and family. Just try it.
The Ninja's Illusion is the latest book in the Jaya Jones series and this is a series that I truly love to read since I love reading adventures mystery books in exotic settings. This time Jaya travels to Japan where here best friend Sanjay a.k.a. The Hindi Houdini is working with the controversial magician, Akira who is said to be able to do magic for real. However, something is wrong, Sanjay seems to want Jaya to stay home, but that just makes her more eager to travel to Japan. And, when she gets there doesn't it take long for Jaya to realize that something is definitely wrong when Sanjay and she discovers a man dressed as a Ninja in a Buddhist temple watching them..z The Ninja's Illusion is an entertaining book to read, just as the previous I have read has been. It can without any problems be read as stand-alone. The story is intriguing, and I love the easy-going banter between Jaya, Sanjay, and Tamarind. However, to be honest, was there a moment around half the book when I felt that the story just didn't have the same thrilling feeling as the previous did like the pacing was a bit off and I wanted something to happen to get the book back on track. It could be all the Jaya, Sanjay and Lane (Jaya's ex) drama. I have never liked the whole triangle drama thing and as much as I like Sanjay wasn't I that interested in this new development. Thankfully it was resolved in a good way. Also, Tamarind showing up around the time of the BIG drama thing helped put the book back on track. Man, it's hard sometimes to write about things in books without spoiling it... The Jaya Jones series is fabulous, and I recommend it warmly!