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Thursday 6 November 2014

‘Murder on Bamboo Lane’ by Naomi Hirahara

Published by Turnaround,
July 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-4252-6495-9

This is an unusual world for the British reader.  Ellie Rush Is a bicycle cop for the LAPD, with an aunt who is a highly ranked Asian American in the department.  The world of the West Coast of the USA is shown in full diversity - Ellie herself is part Japanese American and half Caucasian - and her friends are a diverse bunch whom she usually meets at a ramen house in Little  Tokyo.  Ellie is present for the discovery of the body of Jenny Ngugen, a former classmate at the university who was Vietnamese.  It is not Ellie's task to investigate murder but she is able to get information about Jenny when the homicide detectives cannot so she becomes attached to the investigation.  Ellie is 22 and ambitious but she discovers the minefields that face her in her job because of her relationship to her aunt and her newness in the position.  Her family is not totally happy with her choice of career and her friendship group are also doubtful.

Ellie is an appealing heroine who tries hard to balance her choice of career with the suspicions of the police that her friends have.  She has broken up with a boyfriend that her family likes and she finds the police detective, an older man, attractive.  Ellie digs into Jenny's life and unearths various clues to Jenny's state of mind concerning her life in the USA and her mother's life and death in Vietnam.  I enjoyed this book with its cosmopolitan LA setting, undertones of political shenanigans and interesting murder.  I hope that more adventures for Ellie will follow.
Reviewer: Jennifer S Palmer
This is the first Ellie Rush book but Naomi Hirahara has written another series of 5 books about Japanese American gardener Mas Arai.

Naomi Hirahara was born in Pasadena, California. Her father, Isamu (known as "Sam"), was also born in California, but was taken to Hiroshima, Japan, as an infant. He was only miles away from the epicenter of the atomic-bombing in 1945, yet survived. Naomi's mother, Mayumi, or "May," was born in Hiroshima and lost her father in the blast. Shortly after the end of World War II, Sam returned to California and eventually established himself in the gardening and landscaping trade in the Los Angeles area. Naomi received her bachelor's degree in international relations from Stanford University and studied at the Inter-University Center for Advanced Japanese Language Studies in Tokyo. She also spent three months as a volunteer work camper in Ghana, West Africa.  She was a reporter and editor of The Rafu Shimpo during the culmination of the redress and reparations movement for Japanese Americans who were forcibly removed from their homes during World War II. During her tenure as editor, the newspaper published a highly-acclaimed inter-ethnic relations series after the L.A. riots.  Naomi left the newspaper in 1996 to serve as a Milton Center Fellow in creative writing at Newman University in Wichita, Kansas. After returning to Southern California in 1997, she began to edit, publish, and write books.
Naomi and her husband Wes make their home in Southern California. Her mystery serial, Heist in Crown City, appeared in Asahi Weekly in Japan twice a month. She leads a number of writing workshops and taught a bilingual writing class at the Japanese Retirement Home in Los Angeles, organized by Poets & Writers, Inc. and funded through an NEA grant. Naomi served as chapter president of the Southern California chapter of the Mystery Writers of America in 2010.

Jennifer Palmer Throughout my reading life crime fiction has been a constant interest; I really enjoyed my 15 years as an expatriate in the Far East, the Netherlands & the USA but occasionally the solace of closing my door to the outside world and sitting reading was highly therapeutic. I now lecture to adults on historical topics including Famous Historical Mysteries.

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