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by Naomi Hirahara

Pub Date: March 30th, 2004
ISBN: 0-385-33759-0
Publisher: Delta

Fifty years and more after Hiroshima, another bomb ticks away among the Japanese survivors in L.A.

A month before Joji Haneda dies in the hospital, word goes out among his fellow gardeners all around Ventura County that someone’s looking for him. More than one someone, in fact, since two visitors from Hiroshima, private eye Shuji Nakane and Shine magazine writer Yuki Kimura seem equally eager to find him, the reporter because he’s trying to ascertain the fate of his grandfather, who was working in the Hiroshima train station when the bomb fell, the shamus for reasons he’d rather not say. Nakane’s quest seems more equivocal—Joji’s old compatriot Masao Arai is convinced he’s behind the theft of his beloved 1956 Ford pickup—but Yuki’s bears more bitter fruit. Riki Kimura, the grandfather he’s trying to put to rest, has been living as Joji Haneda for many years, and when Yuki gets too close to the truth about him, he ends up under arrest for murder. Stung by the fact that no one, not even those closest to the alleged Joji, will admit the deception, Mas Arai puts his meager resources on the line to vindicate Yuki and set the record straight once and for all.

Given the immensely promising background, there’s surprisingly little mystery here. But debut novelist Hirahara’s prismatic writing nails a Japanese-American subculture and a troubled past few of her readers have ever confronted directly.