Naomi Hirahara

Naomi Hirahara is the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series, which features a Kibei Nisei gardener and atomic-bomb survivor who solves crimes, Officer Ellie Rush series, and now the new Leilani Santiago mysteries. A former editor of The Rafu Shimpo, she has written a number of nonfiction books on the Japanese American experience and several 12-part serials for Discover Nikkei.

Updated October 2019

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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Five—Sansei Anonymous

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The Sansei guy standing in front of us is the same guy in the photo in my wallet. A little bit skinnier, a little more buff. (He’s obviously been working out during his recovery, while my paunch only gets softer.) I’m convinced that he’s Eric Fujii, the suspect in a Little Tokyo murder that I’m investigating.

Right now, he’s confessing, Narcotics Anonymous style. “She was always on my case, comparing me with my sister, saying that I was no good. I mean, I know that I needed to move out of her ...

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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Four—Waru Bozu

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A seventy-eight-year-old Japanese woman from Fukushima is found dead from a blow to the head in an alley next to Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo. Her fifty-year-old Sansei son, described as a “loser” by his very uptown sister, walks into the mother’s senior housing unit with a hammer in his pocket immediately afterwards. Yup, it did sound suspicious. Yes, it could be incriminating. But, in my thirty years of detecting, I’ve learned that you can’t make a conclusion just based on two pieces of information. The information has to be linked with hard ...

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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Three—If I Had a Hammer

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Some people read palms. Others read tea leaves. I like to read teeth. No, I’m not one of those weirdoes with strange fetishes. My younger sister, Traci, is a dentist in Yorba Linda and also my only sibling who still talks to me. During the early days of her practice, she hired me to shake down people who wrote her bounced checks. I told her just to deal in cash or credit cards, especially for uninsured services, but that’s not how Traci rolls. Yeah, she’s one of these people with a heart of gold ...

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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Two—All in the Family

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It turns out that the dead body discovered near the parking lot of Japanese Village Plaza in Los Angeles was not my fourteen-year-old daughter’s. It was of a much older Asian woman in her seventies. Name not released. At least that’s what it says in The Rafu Shimpo, the local newspaper that usually would be my last source of information, other than the obituaries. That was until I temporarily moved my business and home here to J-town, Little Tokyo—emphasis on temporary.

The Rafu Shimpo is actually hand delivered to some businesses here on First ...

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Chapter One—False Confession

“I did it,” I tell them. I sit in a back room of the Little Tokyo Koban, a visitor’s center and community police outpost on First Street in downtown L.A. Standing in front of me are the Koban manager; my best friend, Cesar Soto; and Officer Doug Brenner, my main contact in the LAPD.

Half of the room is covered with balls covered in tissue paper in preparation for the upcoming Tanabata Festival, something related to star-crossed lovers. Strangest place for a confession, but apropos for me in my current situation.

“You didn’t, Shirota,” Brenner says. What ...

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