SUMMER OF THE BIG BACHI

Naomi Hirahara, Author . Delta $12 (304p) ISBN 978-0-385-33759-5

In chapter one of Hirahara's seamless and shyly powerful first novel, a Japanese PI unsettles prickly, stubborn Mas Arai, Hiroshima survivor, widower and estranged father, and the other elderly Japanese-American gardeners who hang out at Wishbone Tanaka's Lawnmower Shack in the seedy L.A. suburb of Altadena. The PI's disturbing questions concern a nurseryman called Joji Haneda, reported dead in the atomic blast that leveled Hiroshima in August 1945, but who was actually still alive in California in June 1999. A month later, Haneda is brutally murdered. Mas must revisit his past and open old, still festering wounds in order to solve the crime, while the specter of bachi , akin to instant bad karma, hovers over him like the black clouds of his recurring nightmares. In his cherished 1956 Ford truck, unlikely sleuth Mas pursues a trail that leads him to an all-night noodle shop, an illegal gambling loft and a chow-mien bowling-alley/cafe. After his truck and dignity are stolen, Mas enlists the help of two lovingly rendered, all-too-human friends: Haruo Mukai, whose long white hair hides a false eye and shocking keloid scar, and Tug Yamada, a gentle, honorable giant willing to put his own life on the line for others. Peppered with pungent cultural details, crisp prose and credible, fresh descriptions of the effects of the A-bomb, this perfectly balanced gem deserves a wide readership. Agent, Sonia Pabley. (Apr. 6)

Forecast: The subtle, tasteful jacket art, combining elements of a rising sun and a lawnmower, will attract readers of multicultural literary fiction.

Reviewed on: 03/29/2004
Release date: 03/01/2004
Open Ebook - 197 pages - 978-0-440-33489-7
Mass Market Paperbound - 337 pages - 978-0-440-24154-6
Paperback - 397 pages - 978-1-59722-401-7
MP3 CD - 978-1-5226-6083-5
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