Keppan The Blood Oath: A Connor Burke Martial Arts Thriller | YMAA

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Keppan The Blood Oath: A Connor Burke Martial Arts Thriller

by John Donohue, Ph.D.

Grieving the loss of his sensei, Connor Burke struggles to recover from emotional and physical wounds received in the defense of sensei Yamashita and his family.


$8.97Save: $8.98 (50%)

Release date: 
September 5, 2023
Paperback: 274 pages
8 × 5.25 × 0.75 in
ISBN: 9781594399381
Printing: Black and White



Release date: 
September 5, 2023
Hardcover: 274 pages
6 x 9 x 1 in


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Release date: 
September 5, 2023
4.09 MB
Printing: Black and White


$17.46Save: $10.48 (38%)

Release date: 
September 5, 2023
Paperback: 274 pages
8 × 5.25 × 0.75 in
ISBN: 9781594399381

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Average: 5 (1 vote)
Skill Level: 1 2 3


Keppan is a tense but steady thriller centered on a mystery shrouded in mysticism and hiding a common motive: money.” —FOREWORD Reviews

“Donohue crisply and elegantly blends Japanese martial arts and urban New York … Fans will be well rewarded.” —Publishers Weekly

“Donohue kicks out prose that is as fluid as the martial arts moves he so eloquently describes.” —Library Journal

“Multilayered and satisfying … an accomplished series.” —Kirkus Reviews

When does the student become the master?

Grieving the loss of his sensei, Connor Burke struggles to recover from emotional and physical wounds received in the defense of sensei Yamashita and his family. As the heavy burden of leadership takes its toll, he welcomes the distraction of an investigation—a noted yoga guru’s unexplained death.

Winston Tambor, a charismatic yoga teacher, dies under questionable circumstances. Officials believe his death was by natural causes, but insiders think differently. Investigator Mickey Burke needs a specialist with knowledge of esoteric Asian disciplines and thinks his brother Connor will be perfect to wrap up the case.

Connor Burke unexpectedly finds himself at the epicenter of extortion, mystics, and Russian mobsters. Ancient codes of honor pitted against corrupt forces of desire compel Connor not to walk away. A blood oath is eternal.



Keppan is a tense but steady thriller centered on a mystery shrouded in mysticism and hiding a common motive: money.

"In John Donohue’s thrilling mystery novel Keppan, a martial artist balances taking over his master’s dojo with investigating the suspicious death of a celebrity yoga instructor.

Connor is still reeling from the sacrifice that his master, the respected swordsman Yamashita, made by giving his life to protect his dojo and students. The trauma continues to weigh on his mind, but Connor must contend with the physical injuries as well. Yamashita appointed Connor as his successor—a role Connor isn’t sure he’s capable of.

A welcome distraction from the loss of his master and the dojo issues comes in the form of his PI brother: a case involving the death of a yoga instructor. The death was claimed to be due to an ancient yogic practice that involves the release of intense power. Connor becomes embroiled in the esoteric Asian arts as he attempts to sift the mystical from the mundane.

The depictions of Connor’s practice are intense but also meditative as he moves through the forms and maneuvers learned over years of practice. The physical prowess he displays is mirrored only by his mind—honed by years of research and education before he transitioned into the martial arts. His unique mindset makes him perfect for the case, as he has a foot in both worlds: martial arts and investigative research. The danger mounts as it becomes apparent people kill to honor ancient codes but also to ensure the flow of money goes into the desired hands. With sharp dialogue wherein what’s not said is just as important as the superficial conversation, Connor and his allies ascertain why the yoga master died and who might gain from it."


"John Donohue once again satisfyingly evokes the world of Japanese martial arts, discipline, culture, and chaos. In this novel, though, there is an ample salting of other worlds, including the rich but tainted American yoga culture, the rough trade of sex tapes, and the mobster dimensions of Japanese corporations and Russian oligarchs. These worlds spin by, in and out of his hero’s orbit like errant moons enriching the story and setting an ever-larger stage. The characters are palpable. The reader can almost smell their sweat and see their tics, see his or her face in the shiny side of swords, hear the springs of pistols issuing subsonic rounds. Fans will find that author’s protagonist, Burke, to be familiar but also more nuanced; damaged but all the more engaging because of it, missing his master and seeking equilibrium and trying to banish his pain. A new level of work for the author and a treasure for his faithful and for thriller enthusiasts alike."

—Monk Yun Rou/Arthur Rosenfeld, Ordained Taoist Monk (China) author, Daoist teacher, Tai Chi master, speaker

"Keppan packs the wallop of Bruce Lee’s powerful one-inch punch. It examines the aftermath of tragic violence and death, dealing with grief and facing one’s own mortality, which lifts the novel above standard genre fare. Donohue demonstrates his maturation as a fiction writer who delivers emotionally charged insights into complicated relationships, all wrapped in a tightly paced mystery. The Connor Burke series just keeps getting better and better."

—Brian R. Sheridan, Assistant Professor of Dept of Communication – Mercyhurst University, journalist, and martial artist, co-author of America in the 30s

 "Donohue’s Burke series is among the best in the genre.  Not only does he have some the best drawn action sequences set to the page, but his use of different cultures coexisting and mingling throughout his narratives sheds new lights on aspects of the human condition that can really use it.  This series is a case study on the elevation of “genre fiction” to literature.  I’m eager to see where this series goes from here.  Like Burke, I’m not done mourning Yamashita."

—Meron Langsner, Ph.D. in Theatre History, author, award-winning playwright, theatrical fight choreographer

"John Donohue excels at his martial-spirit Connor Burke novels because John is the real thing: a masterful author and a master of martial arts. Keppan offers more than just realistic action and attitudes, its mystery train takes readers into the deep questions we all face."

—James Grady, author of Robert Redford's Three Days of the Condor and 2024's The Smoke in Our Eyes

"Observing their surroundings, some people are able to discern more than others, be it an astute detective, anthropologist, or martial art master. In Keppan readers experience the unfolding of a thriller that sparkles with minutiae that punctuate the story. Few have the depth of academic perspective and actual barehand combative experience to create such captivating fiction as Dr. John Donohue—a master at wielding swords and words."

—Michael DeMarco, Taiji instructor, publisher of The Journal of Asian Martial Arts, CEO Via Media Publishing, author of Wuxia America

"Keppan: The Blood Oath is a masterfully written martial arts thriller by a true master of the martial arts. John Donohue blends philosophy, action, and New York grittiness throughout this tale featuring his protagonist Connor Burke. It’s a riveting read for not only martial artists, but for anyone who enjoys a suspenseful, page-turning, thriller. Highly entertaining!"

—Alain Burrese, J.D., author, martial artist

"The Burke series captured my imagination. Donohue masterfully uses his knowledge of martial arts and storytelling abilities to draw the reader in, respectfully representing Japanese martial arts culture while telling a fantastic story. This is a series I will read again and again."

—Daniel Keupp, Chief Instructor in the United States for ShinShin Ryu Iaijutsu

"A gripping story of Conner Burke, expert swordsman, and the passing of his beloved sensei, Yamashita. As Burke struggles from injuries received defending his teacher's life, he must now contend with outside forces trying to control his dojo and an investigation of a famous yoga teacher's mysterious death. 

John Donohue's expertise in the sword arts shines in this powerful story of greed, murder, and swordplay. Besides presenting a page-turning plot, John infuses his work with Japanese combat wisdom that fans of the martial arts action will find fascinating."

—Loren W. Christensen, Portland Police Officer (RET), martial artist, author of Dukkha: Sam Reeves thriller (series)

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About the Author

John Donohue, Ph.D.

A nationally known expert on the culture and practice of the martial arts, John Donohue has been banging around dojo for more than 30 years. Fascinated with the themes of human action and potential he uncovered in his research, John began thinking about the fictional possibilities inherent in the world of the martial arts. He began working in earnest on Sensei, the first Connor Burke thriller, in … More »