ナオミ・ヒラハラ

(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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Excerpt from A Grave on Grand Avenue: An officer Ellie Rush Mystery

I get on the Gold Line light rail—I may be missing my car but unlike some Angelenos, I know how to use public transportation; my dad is an engineer with the Metro—and get off at Little Tokyo.

Two blocks east from the station is our hangout, Osaka’s, the best ramen in the neighborhood. Inside, I find my friends—Nay, my ex-boyfriend Benjamin, and the fourth member of our little posse, Rickie, the ultimate Mohawked diva—right where I knew they’d be.

“You won’t believe this,” I announce. “Someone stole the Green Mile!”

The whole table ...

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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Eight—She Cleans Houses, Doesn’t She?

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“She was my friend. Perhaps my only friend.” Mrs. Yokoyama carefully enunciates each syllable. 

My fourteen-year-old daughter Maddy and I sit on a pure white fabric couch as we listen to the Japanese woman speak. Maddy, as usual, can’t stay still and I am worried that one of her muddy Doc Martens will leave a brown footprint on the bottom of Mrs. Yokoyama’s spotless couch.

In a middle-class Buddhahead household, our shoes would be off and left on the floor by the front door. But the Yokoyamas aren’t middle-class. They are upper class with ...

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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Seven—Do You Know the Way to Hancock Park?

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I stare at the message a second time. It’s printed out on a regular white letter-sized paper, the standard offering of any office store. The font is Helvetica, also totally nondescript. The content, however, is not anything typical. It’s a blatant threat, telling me to stop investigating the murder of a seventy-something Japanese woman in Little Tokyo. Or else.

If it’s just me, I’d wad up the paper and say, “What the hell.” But I’m a dad of a fourteen-year-old daughter, Maddy, whom I’m responsible for, and I’m not going ...

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Nikkei Detective

Chapter Six—Noguchi Verses

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As I make my way to the Koban Visitors Center, First Street in Little Tokyo is hopping. And I don’t mean just the millenials lined up at Daikokuya ramen house. Couples pushing strollers and teenagers in cosplay. It’s a weekday evening in August. Those attempting to revitalize Nisei Week Japanese Festival, an annual shindig since the 1930s, need a pat on the back. Whatever they are doing, it’s working.

I text my fourteen-year-old daughter Maddy to make sure that she’s safe and sound in our temporary living quarters, a low-income residential unit around ...

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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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