A secret dating from Hiroshima at the time of the bomb will finally come to light more than a half century later in Los Angeles, the summer of 1999. Mas Arai, a gardener and widower is a Kibei -- born in the U.S., taken to Japan as a boy -- who made it back to California at 18. Joji Haneda, another Kibei Mas knew in Hiroshima, and who became a gardener in California as well, has died.
Nobody liked Joji, but several people show up from Japan to look into his effects and his past. The story has typical noir themes and twists: potential witnesses threatened, Mas's prized 1956 Ford truck stolen, a heated poker game climaxes in a brawl and police bust, the deceased Haneda's mistress is beaten to a pulp, and an innocent young Japanese reporter is charged. There is an envelope fat with cash, and a private investigator from Japan offers Mas big money for information, then $30,000 to keep out of it. Someone removes the oxygen mask from a beating victim in the hospital and hastens his death. The novel is adequately plotted and has a solid grasp of the different social sub-groups of Kibei, Nisei (Japanese-Americans born in the U.S.), “no-no boys” who refused to sign any kind of loyalty oaths in the internment camps, and U.S. Army vets—their conflicting loyalties and suspicions—but as a noir thriller it remains weak.
This report prepared by David Loftus
Delta, Apr 2004, 12.00, 289 pp.
Over fifty years have passed since the Americans dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. During the subsequent five plus decades the world has dramatically changed as Japan and the United States are allies with an economic rivalry as two of the most powerful nations on the globe.
Numerous Japanese survivors of the Hiroshima debacle have lived and still reside in Los Angeles. This included until recently gardener Joji Haneda, who died less than a month ago in a Ventura County hospital. Two Japanese visitors were seeking out Joji. Shine magazine writer Yuki Kimura wanted to ask him about what happened to Yuki's vanished grandfather Riki Kimura just after the bomb fell, something he believed Joji had known. Working for a client, private eye Shuji Nakane wanted to question Joji for information on a stolen classic 1956 Ford pickup. However, Yuki will learn the stunning truth about 1945 and his lost grandfather, but also ends up arrested for murder.
The intrigue surrounding Hiroshima at the time of the bomb and the insightful look at the Japanese-American subculture in Southern California overwhelm the mystery. The cast is strong especially the two visitors and the three conspiratorial friends hiding the past including perceptions of Joji. Though the mystery behind what happened to Riki seems minor, fans of astute looks at subcultures within the so called American melting pot will appreciate Naomi Hirahara's delightful debut.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner