The contrived premise for Furutani's first novel is that fortysomething, unemployed Ken Tanaka--a dedicated member of the L.A. Mystery Club--sets himself up as a make-believe private-eye (even renting an office, printing business cards, etc.) as part of a mystery-weekend game he's planning. Naturally, a passerby mistakes him for the real thing. She's blond bombshell Rita Newly, who hires eager, dumb Ken to pick up a package (embarrassing photos, supposedly) from a blackmailing Japanese businessman named Matsuda. Ken gets the package--which contains valuable papers, not photos; Matsuda gets gruesomely murdered. So Ken, a suspect, goes sleuthing, trying to locate the Little Tokyo stripper who was Matsuda's final date while tangling with some violent mobsters (who want the package). It would take tremendous style and atmosphere, of course, to transform this familiar, short-story-ish plot into a satisfying novel. Unfortunately, while charmless narrator Ken occasionally strains for humor, the filler here (except for a few persuasive glimpses into the Japanese-American community) is consistently unengaging: earnest exchanges between Ken and girlfriend Mariko, a recovering alcoholic; Mariko's first speech at an AA meeting; and bland musings on everything from anti-Asian racism and Kurosawa movies to Buddhist carnivals and Japanese woodblocks. A wobbly debut.